China province targets single-use plastics for extinction

HAINAN, China — A Chinese province known for its resort-like destinations is taking drastic action to do away with single-use, non-biodegradable plastics by the end of this year, according to news reports. Plastic bags and tableware will also be banned, entirely, in the province by the end of 2020.

            Hainan, an island province located in the South China Sea and in between Hong Kong and Vietnam, will establish regulations to ban the “production, sale and use of single-use, non-biodegradable plastic products by the end of 2019,” according to a news release published by the Chinese News Service (a state news agency).

            The statement added plastic bags and tableware would be banned from the province 12 months later.

            The province’s Department of Ecology and Environment plans to complement the ban with a consumer-friendly list of plastic products not available for use.

            Members of the province’s logistics industry are also encouraged to use biodegradable plastic bags in their packaging.

            A comprehensive recycling management program could also be implemented by or before 2025, which would, in part, direct Hainan’s farmers to rely on biodegradable mulch film, according to a news report.

            Reuters stated the Hainan initiative to phase out single-use, non-biodegradable plastics is the first of its kind within China.

            Chinese News Service’s report stated people on the island province consume an estimated 120,000 tons of single-use, non-biodegradable plastic products annually.

            The policy directive in Hainan comes on the heels of a national decision in 2017 to no longer process imported plastics. A separate report by the state-sponsored Chinese News Service stated the world’s most populous country imported 106 million tons of plastic waste, primarily from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, between 1992 and 2017. Countries like the United States shipped used plastics to China instead of recycling them domestically.

            China’s ban on imported plastic waste was memorialized in the 2017 National Sword policy, which trickled down to the United States almost immediately. All 50 states and the District of Columbia enacted various changes to local recycling policies shortly after the National Sword policy went into effect. Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia were least affected by China’s decision to ban the import of plastic waste, according to a study conducted by Waste Dive, a business journalism outlet analyzing the waste industry.

            Chinese News Service, which is found online at www.ecns.cn, is a state news agency; it was established and sponsored by Chinese journalists in 1952.

            Hainan is home to more than 9 million people; its largest city is Haikou. The island province has been known to enact policies to benefit the environment, though a recent report in Beijing Review, a news weekly covering China, stated Hainan’s government was criticized for fostering “rampant real estate development” at the expense of local ecology.

            “Some local governments of cities and counties in Hainan Province pursued fiscal revenue from the booming real-estate development sector and ignored the importance of environmental protection and conservation, which has led to serious damage to the local environment,” the Beijing Review story stated. “The inspection team also criticized the many reclamation projects for real-estate development which have destroyed original coastal ecological systems.”