They’re doing it in China, one of the most polluted countries in the world, so why can’t we do it here in the United States?
A strict Chinese limit on ultra-thin plastic bags significantly reduced bag-related pollution nationwide during the past year. The country avoided the use of 40 billion bags, according to government estimates.
Plastic bags are commonly found in waterways, on beaches, and in other “unofficial” dumping sites across China. Litter caused by the notorious bags has been referred to as “white pollution.”
The State Council, China’s parliament, responded in January 2008 by prohibiting shops, supermarkets, and sales outlets from providing free plastic bags that are less than 0.025 millimeters thick.
The State Administration of Industry and Commerce also threatened to fine shopkeepers and vendors as much as 10,000 yuan (US$1,465) if they were caught distributing free bags.
In its first review of the ban, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced earlier this month that supermarkets reduced plastic bag usage by 66 percent since the policy became effective last June. The limit in bag production saved China 1.6 million tons of petroleum, the NDRC estimated.
Prior to the ban, an estimated 3 billion plastic bags were used daily across China, creating more than 3 million tons of garbage each year. China consumed an estimated 5 million tons (37 million barrels) of crude oil annually to produce plastics for packaging.
The amount of garbage generated by these bags, which take roughly 100 years to decompose, is staggering. More and more jurisdictions around the world are banning or taxing the bags. It seems like a logical step, though I suspect the oil lobby might have something to say about it.