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China set to ban certain plastic items within a year

China has set a timetable to ban or restrict some single-use, nondegradable plastic products by the end of this year.

The plan was unveiled on January 19 as part of a goal to curb plastic pollution in major cities within five years.

The use of nondegradable plastic bags is expected to cease in some areas, including shopping centres, supermarkets and restaurant takeout services in large cities by the end of 2020.

All other cities and urban areas will have these products slashed by the end of 2022.

The timetable, released by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, explained that the production and sale of disposable foam plastic tableware and plastic cotton swabs will also be banned by the end of this year.

Additionally, the production of household chemicals containing plastic microbeads will be banned by the end of 2020; and the sale of these products will cease by 2022.

The Chinese government has announced there won’t be an immediate ban for use of single-use nondegradable bags in city markets, but restrictions will be introduced and extended to these areas by 2022. A complete ban will then come into effect by the end of 2025, the guideline outlines.

In a statement, China Plastic Processing Industry Association secretary-general Weng Yunxuan praised the plan for its step-by-step roll-out.

“The ban will not be imposed all of a sudden, but phase-by-phase. The current production capacity (for substitute products) in China will not fail to meet the market gap caused by the ban,” Yunxuan said.

Under the new guidelines, single-use, nondegradable plastic products will be gradually banned in the restaurant industry in urban areas across the country by the end of 2022, and in express delivery sectors three years later.

The government has encouraged e-commerce and on-demand service platforms to draft plans to find substitutes for disposable plastic products.

Yang Bicong, who is the secretary-general of on-demand service platform Meituan-Dianping, said customers may experience increased packaging costs in the short term while it is difficult to get substitutes.

“In the long run, with breakthroughs in technological innovation and the expansion of the market (for degradable plastic substitutes), the cost will be reduced and the performance (of the substitutes) will be improved. All the problems will be addressed,” she said.