China’s plastic soup

A large part of the plastic soup in our oceans is from China. Our oceans are an important source of all sorts of things like food, oxygen, work and inspiration. But they are currently used as landfill. Luckily, people all over the world are rapidly becoming more aware that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

That’s true for people in China too. In fact, they already introduced regulations for the use of plastic bags in 2008, when bags made of very thin plastic were banned. Customers had to start paying for the bags that were still allowed, and producers were obliged to provide information about the plastic material and how it can harm the environment. It wasn’t entirely successful. Ten years on, the large supermarket chains are the only ones who adhere to the rule. At the same time, they started packaging lots of fruit and vegetables in thin plastic films. So, all in all, the net benefit is close to zero.

The recent growth of food delivery services has made things worse than ever before. The huge number of apps providing these services didn’t exist yet in 2008, so they’re now slipping through the net. In 2017, the waste derived from meal packaging was nine times higher than two years earlier and amounted to 1.6 million tons of bags, boxes and chop sticks. The recycling and processing of all this waste left a lot to be desired. China was so busy recycling plastic waste from the West, that most of China’s own waste ended up in the ground, incinerated or in the river. In 9 out of 10 cases, it eventually ended up in the oceans.

But that’s a thing of the past. China has stopped importing waste from the West and they are now completely focused on processing their own waste. In the rural areas in particular, this is still a challenge. Most people in the countryside are used to simply dumping their garbage, and they aren’t yet aware of the problems associated with it.

The Chinese province of Hainan wants to reduce the production, sales and use of all single-use, non-biodegradable plastics to zero by 2025. The province is currently using around 120,000 tons of plastics per year. The government announced that they’ll introduce a monitoring and enforcement system, which should be implemented by the end of the year. And this time, the food delivery services won’t be able to escape.

It’s good to see that China doesn’t ignore this problem. And once China has set its mind on something, things can go very quickly. Promising times!

Cok Harteveld,

Van den Berg Roses, China




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