Plastic Pollution
June 01 2011

China Gets Stricter and EU Considers a Bag Ban

by Bill Hickman

Promising news for international plastic pollution prevention has been coming out of China and Europe lately.  China has banned the thin and flimsy plastic bags at supermarkets since June 2008 and recently announced the ban will extend to pharmacies and book stores.  The European Union is talking about a plastic bag ban for all member nations which would be a huge victory for the environment.

In China the statistics vary for how many plastic bags have been saved since 2008 and range from 24 billion to 'as many as 100 billion'.  Based on the 24 billion estimate, this article claims that 3.6 million tons of petroleum has been conserved along with about 10 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.  The math seems a bit suspect to me but any way you cut it, there has been very positive impact for the environment from cleaner air to less plastic litter.  An even bigger impact is coming as the ban extends to bookstores and pharmacies.

Meanwhile, the idea of a plastic bag ban in Europe has started some heated discussions.  From The Economic Voice:

"EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said ‘Fifty years ago, the single-use plastic bag was almost unheard of. Now we use them for a few minutes and they pollute our environment for decades. That’s why we are looking at all the options, including a Europe-wide ban on plastic carrier bags. Social attitudes are evolving and there is a widespread desire for change. We need the views of as many people as possible to complement our scientific analyses and help drive policy on this issue, which is suffocating our ­environment.’

Mr Dodd of the British Retail Consortium said ‘Retailers have been very successful already at working with customers on reducing the number of bags handed out. This has been achieved on a voluntary basis and is the best way. Many people already carry their own bags around with them – but because they want to, not because they are being forced to. If you use the heavy hand of the law you’re more likely to turn people off.’"

Sounds like Janez Potocnik has it right while Mr Dodd is towning the industry line of 'we can recycle our way out of this'.  The truth is that recycling does noting to reduce litter that's an eyesore and can harm or kill wildlife in the marine environment.  Don't forget the two R's that go before recycle: REDUCE and REUSE. 

Remember your reusable bag!