China Gets Tougher on Plastic Pollution


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On January 19, 2020, the Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) and National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) jointly published the Notice on Further Enhancing Treatment of Plastic Pollution [1], announcing to gradually restrict or ban certain plastics and promote the use of their alternatives.

Three major goals are provided in the Notice:

(*) By the end of 2020, the production, sale and use of certain plastics will be restricted and prohibited in pilot areas and sectors.

(*) By 2022, the consumption of disposable plastic products will significantly drop, and their alternatives will be used at a larger scale.

(*) By 2025, China will establish a management system for the production, circulation, consumption, recycling and disposal of plastic products, make great progress in developing alternative materials, significantly decrease plastic wastes in landfills of key cities, and effectively control plastic pollution.

The Notice highlights a ban on the production and sale of plastic bags less than 0.025mm thick and polyethylene agricultural films less than 0.01mm thick, as well as the production of plastic products with medical waste.

The production and sale of disposable foam plastic tableware and plastic swabs will be prohibited by the end of 2020. Meanwhile, the production of daily chemicals containing plastic microbeads will be banned by 2020 and their sale must stop by 2022.

The Notice also specifies timelines for restrictions and prohibitions imposed on the use of various plastic products, including non-biodegradable plastic bags, disposable plastic tableware, disposable plastic items provided at hotels and restaurants, and plastic packaging used in express deliveries. For instance, the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags will be banned in major cities by the end of 2020, in all built-up areas in cities and coastal counties by 2022, and in peddlers’ markets in the said areas by 2025.

The country will also exercise a complete ban on the import of plastic waste, but a deadline has not been given yet.

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