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China Unveils Five-year Plan to Ban Single-use Plastics

China Unveils Five-year Plan to Ban Single-use Plastics

China is set to ban or restrict production, sales and use of disposable plastic products via three stages in the next five years.

In a new five-year plan, China is taking major steps to rid the nation of single-use plastic waste. On January 19, China announced its plan to ban single-use plastics across the country.

The joint proposal from China’s National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment prohibits the sale of disposable foam plastic tableware, disposable plastic cotton swabs and the production of daily chemical products containing plastic beads.

The initiative will be rolled out in three phases. This year, China will ban and restrict the production, sales and use of some plastic products in some regions and areas. By 2022, China hopes the consumption of disposable plastic products will be significantly reduced and alternative products will be replaced. By 2025, China will prohibit the production, distribution, consumption and recycling of single-use plastic products.

“It is a very reasonable scenario that China will lead the world in banning single-use plastics that have no real societal value, whilst also creating a modern, state-of-the-art recycling industry that competes with the very best in the world,” said John Richardson, senior consultant for Asia at the commodity market intelligence provider Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS), in a statement. “The implications both for virgin PE polymers demand in China and for the amount of that demand which is met by recycled production are likely to be very significant.”

Below are more details about the ban, according to ICIS:

  • The policy explicitly prohibits the production and sale of products including ultra-thin plastic bags with a thickness of less than 0.025 milimeters (mm) and polyethylene agricultural mulch with a thickness of less than 0.01 mm.
  • By the end of 2020, the production and sale of disposable foam plastic tableware, disposable plastic cotton swabs and the production of daily chemical products containing plastic microbeads will be phased out.
  • Nondegradable plastic bags: By the end of 2020, nondegradable plastic bags will be forbidden in key cities, and the scope of implementation will be gradually expanded in 2022 and 2025.
  • Disposable plastic tableware: At the end of 2020, disposable plastic straws will be banned in the catering industry across the country; disposable plastic tableware banned in key cities; and the scope of implementation will be further expanded in 2022.
  • By 2025, the consumption of disposable plastic tableware in the catering and takeout area of cities above the prefecture level will be reduced by 30 percent.
  • Disposable plastic items for hotels: By the end of 2022, star-rated hotels nationwide should no longer actively provide disposable plastic supplies.
  • By the end of 2025, all hotels and home-stay businesses will have to follow.
  • Express plastic packaging: By the end of 2022, key provinces and cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and others will be prohibited from using disposable plastic packaging bags and woven bags for express delivery, and the amount of plastic tape should be reduced.
  • By the end of 2025, nationwide express delivery outlets will follow.

“China polymers or plastics demand is by volume is the biggest in the world and its growth in demand is also the largest," added Richardson. "China is the biggest polymer import market in the world, especially for polyethylene, around half of the demand for which is in single-use plastics. So, whatever happens in China is a big deal for the global polymers business.”

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