Plastic bag plan takes effect in China

Starting June 1, the Chinese government's country-wide plan to make shoppers pay small fees for plastic bags, and to forbid the production of ultra-thin bags will take effect. The move should save China 37 million barrels of oil a year. NGOs have been into the act earlier, pushing for relief from the ubiquitous plastic bag — Chinese use over 3 billion such bags every day.

The bag ban has been spreading throughout the world over the past couple years, popping up in places like San Francisco and England, and others. Such a proposal appeared in the southern city of Shenzhen last year, and even earlier in a city in the southwest China province of Yunnan has even tried to control 白色污染 (“white pollution,” or plastic pollution) starting five years ago with such a ban, with favorable

On Chinese-language environmental BBS boards and blogs, news of the plastic bag ban has been a hot topic since it was announced in January. Many netizens are supportive, others concerned; below are some excerpts.

Blogger Liu KenPeng on writes:

看到这个消息,真是 BIG FAST PEOPLE HEART(大快人心)啊!
When I saw this news, it really was most gratifying!
In discussing the most terrible invention in the history of man, plastic bags are the worst of the worst. This thing's most scary aspect is that it has no way to decompose in nature.

Others seemed nervous about the ban's implementation. One netizen posts on


从消费者的角度来看,增收塑料袋费,对于比较节俭的家庭主妇来说,为了最大限度的得到利益,对一些额外的不必要的物品的消费就自然减少.消费减 少,商场的利益减少,不排除某些无良商家谋私利私自提供免费塑料袋,消费者的了便宜,特别是一些素质不高的人,自然是你不说,我不说,大家心知肚明。所谓 上有政策,下有对策。环保目的最终仍不能实现。

This is a rather serious issue, and the implementation will be difficult.
From the consumer point of view, for housewives, in order to maximize their interest, they will reduce spending on unnecessary items. It will affect the interest of shopping malls. Some irresponsible businessmen may provide free plastic bags. Consumers, especially those without environmental conscious, will accept that. We have policy on top, but people have their own strategies, and environmental objective still can't be accomplished.

Qianyuyu at, the online Beijing environmental law forum, writes:


…should limit the use of plastic bags rather than collecting fee.
Consumers need to pay for the plastic bags in supermarket starting from this June. I wonder if the government had any public hearing on such policy. As the inflation rate has been very serious this year, the fee would add pressure to ordinary citizen. I wonder if the government really thinks this through.
Why doesn't the government adopt a policy to limit the use. For example, everyone can get one free plastic bag and has to pay for the second. The policy of plastic bag fee will only favor the business people. People are buying necessary items in supermarket, with the fee, the business will gain extra profit.

On the BBS, others wondered if the small fee for plastic bags would even make a difference:

1 塑料袋才3毛一个,太便宜了.

2 回复:塑料袋才3毛一个,太便宜了.
馒头1元3个 现在成2个了 你说有没有影响

1 Plastic bags (fees) will only be 3 mao, that's too cheap
Basically there will be no influence!

2 Reply: Plastic bags (fees) will only be 3 mao, that's too cheap
Steamed buns were 1 RMB for three, now it's down to two Now tell me if that's influenced anyone

Cloth bags are becoming chic in China in anticipation of the June 1 plastic bag law.


  • 我从今天开始会观察大超市销售塑料袋的情况,并不这些情况想大家报告。

  • Matt Y.

    Last night… at around 1:00am I went to a C-store (a Chinese 7-11) to buy myself some snacks and ciggies, the shop assistant girl smiled at me and said “Sorry, no more plastic bags for free – now you either pay ¥.20 for a plastic bag, or ¥2 for a lasting bag.” I paid for a black shopping bag that has some cartoon design on it, with some characters like “I use one less plastic bag every day”.

    I’m in Shanghai, by the way.

  • Went to Carrefour yesterday and an old couple was arguing with the cashier about having to pay extra for the plastic bag. The cashier was frustrated and her shift was about to end (she put up the ‘closed’ sign right after I got in line) so she just kept on telling them to pay without explaining why.

    Maybe if the cashiers told the customers that the fee exists to help improve the environment, it might guilt a few people into using less bags.

    Instead of getting a cute cartoon bunny bag, I just put everything in my black Jansport backpack.

  • Well China uses 6.93 million bbl/day of oil. So it will save about 5-6 days of oil. Nothing startling, but you gotta start somewhere I guess… I think it will definitely have an effect on decreasing white pollution and changing people’s mindsets though.

  • timur

    its a good start!

  • Eric hu

    First step is always painful, but it is great.

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