If China Can Ban Plastic Bags, Why Can't We?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 2:05 PM EST

china-bags.jpgCommunist governments may be oppressive to American eyes, but they do have the power to make sweeping environmental changes. Key example: China.

As Jacques Leslie reports in our current issue, China is the world's top CO2 emitter and uses more coal than any other nation. But in a bid to reduce pollution, effective June 1, the country's Communist government has banned those flimsy, white, petroleum-based plastic bags. And not just in a few cities, but across the entire nation of 1.3 billion people.

"While [the bags] providing convenience to consumers," the central government said in a statement, "they have also caused serious pollution, and waste of energy and resources, because of excessive use and inadequate recycling," China uses about 3 billion plastic bags a day.

Thicker plastic bags will still be allowed, for a fee, but the government is highly encouraging people to use traditional baskets or re-usable cloth bags. Citizens have been receptive, perhaps because pollution is so bad in China that most have experienced its effects (poor water quality, lung-searing smog) firsthand.

One consequence could be, since production of the bags in China will be banned, that perhaps we'll end up with fewer over here. Everything else we sell is made in China, if our plastic bags are too we might face a welcome shortage.