Plastic consumption won't fall despite ban on straws
China Daily

The production, sale and use of disposable plastic bags will be prohibited by 2025 in Hainan province. (Photo: IC)

The government has banned the use of non-degradable plastic straws in the catering industry this year.

However, those applauding the disappearance of plastic straws since Friday as a testimony to China's progress in reducing plastic consumption should not deny that the move will not check the fast rise in overall plastic consumption in the country.

Last year, the country handled at least 80 billion express parcels and about 30 billion food deliveries, both registering double digit growth over the year before. The non-degradable plastic bags, wraps, food containers, adhesive tapes and bubble wraps that are widely used by the express delivery industry show the fastest growth pole in plastic consumption.

Although the authorities have urged the industry to use degradable packing materials, meeting the requirement is not going to be easy. Like it or not, the fierce competition among express delivery companies has turned into a price war. That means replacing the cheap non-degradable plastic packing materials with more expensive degradable materials might directly cripple many companies that are already struggling to survive.

The total sales of consumer goods are among the few economic indexes that have not yet recovered to their level before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

If lawmakers make the ban on non-degradable plastic products a statutory rule, the costs will necessarily be transferred to consumers, which might further delay the recovery of consumption.

The household waste sorting that has been carried out in many cities nationwide since last year has also driven up the consumption of non-degradable plastic garbage bags.

If the State really intends to reduce the consumption of plastics, apart from targeting the consumption end, it also has to put the production and transaction of nondegradable plastics in the crosshairs, and pay more attention to raising people's environmental awareness.

Yet it would be very difficult to bring down the consumption of plastics in a country where e-commerce booms, and consumption is being stipulated to drive growth.