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China's initiatives to promote use of biodegradable plastics

December 05/2011

(PlastEurope) -- With a per capita plastics consumption of 46 kg in 2009, Chinas appetite for plastics was higher than that years global per capital average of 40 kg, but still significantly lower than the developed worlds 120 kg per capital plastics consumption, data published by the China Plastics Processing Industry Association (Beijing) indicate.

And if those figures held true almost two years ago, amid rising income levels and with a population of 1.3 bn and counting, plastics pollution is turning into a serious problem in the Peoples Republic. The government has been acting to curb the use of conventional plastics in a number of ways since the beginning of this millenium, including by promoting the use of bioplastics to replace disposable shopping bags and food packaging, among others.

In 2008, for instance, China banned the use of plastic bags with a thickness of less than 0.025mm, promoting both reusable as well as biodegradable alternatives instead. Three years after the prohibition was first introduced, an investigation by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC, Beijing / China) found that Chinas major retail outlets had reduced shopping bag consumption by more than 24 bn individual bags, equivalent to about 600,000 t of plastics. Nevertheless, industry experts point out that enforcement of the ban has proven difficult.

The prohibition coincided with the introduction of state council-approved national policies to promote biotech industries, which include the development of biodegradable plastics. Industrial circles expect the government to implement a range of incentives, including tax exemptions, by 2012. The 2008 Beijing Olympics constituted an important testcase, as China claims to have distributed no less than 5m bioplastic carrier bags during the event, showcasing its commitment to protecting the environment.

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