China to ban “ultra-thin” plastic bags
(CNN) -- China is banning free plastic bags common at shops and supermarkets and ordering customers to be charged for any they use, the government said Wednesday.
The rules, which take effect June 1, come as the country tries to tackle a significant source of litter, a statement on the government's Web site said.
The bags also are banned from all public transportation, including buses, trains and planes and from airports and scenic locations, the government said.
Companies caught breaking the new rules face fines and possible forfeiture of goods, the government said.
Shops have been instructed to mark the price of the plastic bags clearly and not fold them into the cost of other items.
Environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, praised China's move, and Christopher Flavin, president of Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization in Washington, said "China is ahead of the U.S. with this policy," AP reported.
The Chinese use up to 3 billion plastic shopping bags a day.
Often, the flimsy bags are used once and discarded, adding to waste in a country grappling with air and water pollution as a result of rapid economic transformation, officials said.
"Our country consumes a large amount of plastic bags. While convenient for consumers, the bags also lead to a severe waste of resources and environmental pollution because of their excessive use and low rate of recycling," the statement at the Web site Gov.cn said. "The ultra-thin bags are the main source of 'white' pollution as they can easily get broken and end up as litter."
The government statement added, "We should encourage people to return to carrying cloth bags, using baskets for their vegetables."
More durable plastic bags still will be allowed for sale by markets and shops, The Associated Press reported.
When the ban goes into effect, China will join countries such as Uganda and South Africa, the statement said.
Bangladesh banned plastic bags four years ago when officials realized they blocked drains and led to flooding. Since then, customers have taken to using bags made of jute or cloth for shopping.
Last year, San Francisco, California, became the first U.S. city to outlaw plastic checkout bags at supermarkets.