China’s Renunciation of Single-use Plastic

China’s Renunciation of Single-use Plastic

Recently, China has decided to gradually abolish the use of single-use plastic. This decision was reached by  the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) at the beginning of 2020. The reason why they  would make this decision is quite simple: China has contributed to worldwide pollution much more than  other countries.

The Origin of the Decision 

China and NDRC have chosen to decrease the use of plastic in order to totally abandon it in 2025. The  decision has multiple origins. First, since the last decade of the 20th century China has constantly increased  its import of plastic, and after almost 30 years they claim to have reached a worrying peak. A solution had  to be found. Secondly, in 2018, China produced 211 million tons of waste, the greatest amount of waste  produced worldwide, on par with the US. 

According to table 1, it can be seen during this period they have almost reached 12 billion US dollars’ worth  of waste imported and exported. This means that not only does China have a lot of waste to dispose of, but  also that because of their waste mismanagement they have strongly contributed to the worsening pollution  situation. Furthermore, in 2017 they collected more than 215 tons of urban waste without revealing how  much of this is recycling. Lastly, in 2018 they decided to stop the import of plastic. This importing of plastic  began in 1992, mostly from the USA, Germany and Japan. During this extended period, they imported more  than 116 million tons of plastic. 

Table 1, plastic’s import-export data 

How has China decided to manage the situation? 

According to some sources, China will phase out the use of disposable plastic starting with the  bigger cities, and then following with the smaller ones. By the end of 2020, Shanghai and Beijing

will abandon single-use plastic, starting with plastic bags and other similar items. By 2022 all the  other cities will abandon these. Following this procedure and substituting plastic materials with  long-lasting ones, China claims that it will be more eco-friendly before 2025. 

This is not the first time that Beijing has tried to reduce the use of single-use plastic. In fact, even  in 2008, they were asking people not to sell things packed in disposable plastic, but to use multi use plastic. This demonstrates that China has already tried to improve the way they use plastic,  but they were not insistent enough. Now that the situation is becoming critical and they have  almost reached a point of no return, they are acting properly. 

Some big companies, such as McDonald’s and Hey Tea, have already started to act in compliance  with the new regulations. Hey Tea, for example, has recently substituted its plastic straws with  paper straws, and McDonald’s has directly banned plastic straws from cities like Guangzhou,  Shanghai, and Beijing. 

More recently, thanks to the Conference of the Parties (COP) that took place this year, it will not  be possible anymore for China to export its waste abroad, unless other parties agree. This should  limit the senseless trade of waste and rubbish that is destroying the environment. 

What can we expect? 

The data reported varies, but it all suggests the same thing: China is changing fast. It is changing its  behavior, its way of relating to other countries, and its way of relating to the whole world. People  who intend to invest in China should carefully remember the following. It is likely that China will  soon find a way to substitute for plastic something more ecologic and that they will take  advantage of their discovery to become stronger and more competitive than before. They are  already investing a lot of money in innovation; the field of ecology and sustainability will possibly

be their next focus. People should keep in mind that the era of plastic as a commodity will soon  end and, if they desire to invest in China, they have better not to do with products made with  plastic.

Categories: China, Environment

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