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China releases guideline to phase out use of nondegradable plastic products by 2025

2020-01-21 17:28 Tuesday

Officials from China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment China recently announced a wide-ranging guideline that is set to have a major impact on the future use of plastic in areas such as disposable packaging and single-use products.

The new guideline, jointly issued this month with the National Development and Reform Commission, includes the goal of phasing out nondegradable plastic products in the country's main consumer sectors, and effectively curbing plastic pollution in major cities, by 2025.

The document sets out an incremental timeline to restrict or ban nondegradable single-use plastic products in specific areas and pledges to increase recycling, bring in preferential policies for green express delivery initiatives and promote eco-friendly packaging.

According to the latest document, China is expected to greatly reduce the volume of plastic waste ending up in landfills overall. Going into more detail, the manufacture and sale of throwaway polystyrene tableware and plastic cotton swabs will be banned by the end of 2020.

A further prohibition will be applied by the end of this year to the production of household chemicals that contain plastic microbeads, a common ingredient found in beauty cleansers and facial scrubs. The sale of these products will be banned completely by 2023.


Step-by-step implementation

Further controls on the sale of other nondegradable plastic products will be applied over several phases in different cities depending on their designation, as well as among the major plastic-consuming sectors.

The bans will be rolled out gradually. For example, the use of nondegradable plastic bags is expected to end in some sectors such as supermarkets, shopping malls and food takeout services, in provincial capitals by the end of 2020. The measure will then be applied to all of China's main cities and urban areas along the coast by the beginning of 2023.

No immediate ban will be set for the use of nondegradable plastic bags in city markets, nor in the express delivery sector, however, until the end of 2025. Instead, restrictions will be introduced in these areas slowly and gradually extended before the ban is brought into force completely.

The secretary-general of the China Plastic Processing Industry Association's degradable plastic committee, Weng Yunxuan, praised the guideline for its phased approach.

Weng commented: "The ban won't be imposed all of a sudden, but rather phase by phase. The current production capacity (for substitute products) in China is expected to succeed to meet the market gap caused by the ban."

The country is technologically prepared for the production of biodegradable plastic shopping bags, he added. Weng said that, last year, China had already announced a national standard for such plastic substitutes. For example, online retailer JD.com has been using eco-friendly bags for a while in some businesses.

Weng, who is also a professor at Beijing Technology and Business University, said China already has several years of experience in promoting degradable plastic goods, and some sectors and companies can share their example with others.

Market entry opportunities

The guideline also instructs e-commerce and on-demand service platforms to improve the management of third-party companies that use their platforms. They are expected to draft plans to find substitutes, lower the use of disposable plastic products and disclose how successfully the measures are put in place.

Such platforms that facilitate deliveries will also be expected to cooperate with recycling companies and sanitation departments to establish amenities to collect the packaging used in their services in the main cities throughout the country.

The new guideline may pose some short-term challenges for companies trying to source alternative supplies for plastic products, but these will be addressed before long, according to Yang Bicong, secretary-general of the social responsibility committee of Meituan-Dianping, China's biggest on-demand food delivery platform.

She remarked: "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 these problems will be addressed."

The issue of regulations and policy related to the use of alternatives to nondegradable plastic in China and throughout the region will be high up on the agenda of the forthcoming Sustainable Packaging Asia Pacific Summit (SPAP) 2020, which will take place in Shanghai from May 28-29, 2020.

This year's summit, organized by Duxes, will feature numerous experts, experienced both in the fields of policy implementation, manufacturing and research in relation to sustainable packaging. Attendees at the event will discuss all of the latest updates and opportunities that will be affected by these changes and more.

To find out more about the Summit, and book your ticket today, please click on the following link: https://www.duxes-foodbeverage.com/package-apsp/index.html

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