In 2008, China -- which had been using and discarding about 3 billion ultrathin plastic shopping bags a day -- bans the bags; shoppers turn to reusable plastic, cloth and bamboo bags.
Ultra-Thin Plastic Shopping Bags Banned in China
ANN CURRY, anchor:
NBC News IN DEPTH tonight, attention shoppers in China. There's something they will no longer be getting at the grocery store because of an unusual move in a country not usually thought of on the front lines of going green. NBC's Mark Mullen reports.
MARK MULLEN reporting:
At this Beijing Wal-Mart store, customers now have another choice besides cash or credit at the check out counter. It's how to carry home their purchases. They can use their own bag, buy a sturdy reusable plastic sack or, as Lehigh Long decided, just carry the stuff by hand, since in China merchants are now banned from giving away ultra thin plastic bags. The idea: change shoppers' habits in the world's most populous country while giving the environment a break.
Chinese consumers have been using, by one count, as many as three billion thin plastic bags every day, bags which are often used once and then discarded. Some take as long as 200 years to degrade. Also, it takes 37 million barrels of expensive crude oil every year just to make the bags.
MIZAOU: (Foreign language spoken)
MULLEN: Many Chinese shoppers like Mizaou told us it's a great policy.
But there is a downside to the ban. The Hwa Chin Plastic Factory, China's largest plastic bag maker, has closed, leaving 20,000 workers holding the bag, out of a job. And a long-time consultant to the plastics industry says if China had a better recycling program, this would not be necessary.
Ms. TANG SAIZHEN (Engineer): (Through translator) Why do people fight over used Coca-Cola bottles and not plastic bags? The bags have no recycle value.
MULLEN: Kicking a three billion-a-day plastic bag habit won't be easy, but the Chinese have made do before. After all, it was only in the 1990s that hundreds of millions of Chinese started using those plastic bags in the first place, giving up their cloth, vinyl or traditional bamboo containers. And not everyone did that. Mark Mullen, NBC News, Beijing.
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