Monday, May 26, 2008


China goes green--bans plastic bags

by Larry Geller

Only in China could they do this: ban the use of thin plastic bags for shopping starting June 1. Yes, June 1, 2008.

(thanks to Ira Rohter for pointer to this story from the Scientific American website)

China Sacks Plastic Bags

Ban could save 37 million barrels of oil and alleviate "white pollution"

SHANGHAI—Thin plastic bags are used for everything in China and the Chinese use up to three billion of them a day--an environmentally costly habit picked up by shopkeepers and consumers in the late 1980s for convenience over traditional cloth bags. Fruit mongers weigh produce in them, tailors stuff shirts into them, even street food vendors plunk their piping hot wares directly into see-through plastic bags that do nothing to protect one's hands from being burned or coated in hot grease. They even have a special name for the plastic bags found blowing, hanging and floating everywhere from trees to rivers: bai si wu le, or "white pollution," for the bags' most common color.

They seem to understand the problem:

"Too many plastic bags is a great waste of natural resources," retired Communist Party cadre Liu Zhidong says through a translator. "When burnt, they produce poisoning smoke, and if buried underneath the ground they need more than 300 years to be degraded."

And it could work:

Yet, the ban enjoys enthusiastic support from many residents here, particularly students, who may not even recall the more traditional practice of cloth bags or baskets. "I will just carry the things by my hands," one young man told me on the campus of Shanghai International Studies University. "I will never use the plastic bags supplied in supermarkets and I'll ask my friends not to use them, too."

Now, what's wrong with us??


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