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Continued use of plastic bags adds insult to injury done to environment

China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-13 07:47

ON JUNE 1, 2008, a national regulation was introduced forbidding stores from providing plastic grocery bags to customers for free. The regulation requires supermarkets or shops to charge customers for such bags in order to reduce their use. However, People's Daily recently reported that large quantities of such carrier bags are still being used in supermarkets and shops every day. Beijing News comments:

People's Daily quoted a survey that looks rather terrible: Small shops still provide plastic bags for free despite the ban, while supermarkets sell large quantities of them every day.

Many people still have the habit of using plastic grocery bags and each family has a few such bags to dispose of every day. It seems the only difference the ban has made is consumers have to pay additional money for the plastic carrier bags they get from supermarkets.

There are two main reasons for this.

The first is the lack of effective supervision to ensure the validity of the regulation. The ban did not list clearly which government departments are responsible for supervising the implementation of the regulation and what punishments shops face if they continue providing plastic grocery bags for free. As a result, since the ban was issued in 2008, the majority of small shops nationwide have simply ignored it, but they have never been punished for not abiding by this regulation.

The regulation bans the use of super-thin plastic bags that are environmentally unfriendly, but they are still used in farmers' produce markets. There seems no supervision over their manufacturing and use.

Second, the regulation only bans the use of plastic bags in shops and supermarkets, it fails to monitor the whole industrial chain. People use plastic carrier bags because they are relatively cheap: At present, the pricing of plastic carrier bags does not include the environmental costs. The authorities need to raise the cost of plastic bags by adjusting the tax and fees on manufacturers.

It is urgent to change the situation. The regulation has been in force for nine years, and its loopholes are already quite obvious. It is necessary to mend all these loopholes and curb the use of plastic grocery bags to help protect the environment.

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