Monday, June 02, 2008

Baggin' the Environment

China has officially entered the world of forceful environmental protection. As of June 1, the government mandated that all stores must charge customers for the use of plastic bags and that said plastic bags must adhere to strict quality requirements. Supposedly, there will be checks on shops to ensure that they are charging a minimal fee (anywhere from 1 to 5 jiao, depending on size).

This is the first effort China has made to curb its use of an estimated 3 billion plastic bags a day--that number is taken from the Chinese news, not Western news sources. This is certainly music to the ears of environmentalists and tree-huggers worldwide.

There are, however, some minor negative effects to this plan. The first being the cost to the poor. Reusable bags at the major stores range in price from 3 RMB to 30 RMB (Jusco is far too expensive sometimes). Still, the cost isn't a huge burden to the poor of the country who will probably find some way to cope. The second problem is that many plastic bag manufacturers have had to adapt to new regulations or close their doors, costing jobs (usually a side effect of any environmental legislation). Finally, there's the loss of free garbage bags. Most people here reuse the larger plastic bags for use as trash bags. Now, we'll have to go out and purchase trash bags when the supply at home runs out.

Next, I'd like to see China tackle the abundant use of styrofoam and excessive packaging of products in multiple wrappers.


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