China’s Farmers Markets Ignore Plastic Bag Ban

China’s Farmers Markets Ignore Plastic Bag Ban

Street market
Thin plastic bags contain farm produce at a Beijing street market. Photo by Drea Geneva

Farm Markets Still Use Plastic Bags | Plastic Bag Ban Report
BEIJING, China, June 4, 2012 (ENS) - It has been harder to wean Chinese shoppers from the plastic bag habit than anticipated when a nationwide ban on the manufacture, sale and use of thin plastic bags took effect four years ago.

Despite the ban, a report in Friday's edition of the Beijing Times newspaper found that about 90 percent of farm produce markets still provide their customers with free plastic bags.

China started banning shops from giving out free plastic bags and prohibiting production and usage of plastic bags thinner than 0.025 millimeters on June 1, 2008.

Markets and retailers of all kinds have been required to charge for the single-use carryout bags since then.

Research conducted by a reporter with the state-owned media outlet Xinhua found that the charge is applied in supermarkets and department stores, but farm produce markets and other smaller vendors still give away plastic bags.

24 Billion Plastic Bags Eliminated
In 2008, when the ban took effect, some three billion plastic bags were used each day in China. Production of the bags was estimated to consume up to 37 million barrels of oil annually.

Statistics from the National Development and Reform Commission show that in the first three years of the ban, the use of plastic bags in major retail locations decreased by more than 24 billion bags annually, equivalent to 200,000 tonnes of plastic.

Saving that much plastic also meant saving 3.6 million tonnes of crude oil or five million tonnes of coal equivalent, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 10 million tonnes, according to the government statistics.

But because the ban has not been fully enforced, the actual emission reduction during those three years was smaller. Cities like Beijing have a serious smog problem as evidenced by this photo.

The habit of depending on free plastic bags is the reason for their continued use at farm produce markets, in addition to customers' desire to save money.

Emission Reduction Effort
The newspaper quoted Gu Xiaoming, a professor at Fudan University, who said the government should work to make the public more aware of its emission reduction efforts and educate people to help reduce their reliance on plastic bags.

Last year, on the third anniversary of the ban, Zhao Jiarong, deputy secretary-general of the National Development and Reform Commission, pledged to eliminate the bags at their sources by conducting inspections in major regions where producers of ultra-thin plastic bags converge.

Greater efforts will be made to check retailers and crack down on violations, she said.

Zhao said the government would launch a campaign in communities, schools and markets to increase people's knowledge about the bag ban policy and their awareness of the environmental dangers of using ultra-thin plastic bags.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.

Cover photo: The Beihai Park in Beijing.  Author: Rux - ReadyForTomorrow.  Published at Flickr.