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China tightens recycling rules

New regulations in China require waste producers to report their use of single-use plastics and to submit formal recycling plans.

China’s Ministry of Commerce has introduced a nationwide system for retailers to report their plastic consumption and will be established. It is part of a trial to help cut the 63 million tonnes of plastic consumed nationally in 2019 and to boost a recycling rate of around 30%.

Single-use plastic bags and eating utensils will be banned from major cities by the end of the year while single-use straws will be banned nationwide. This follows a five-year strategy announced in January this year to deal with the waste created by its 1.4 billion population. China produces around 20 million tonnes of single-use non-biodegradable material annually.

According to an official document published at the end of November, China will ‘progressively ban or restrict the production, sales and use’ of certain plastics while endorsing ‘degradable, recycle-friendly alternatives’.

From September, China has also prohibited some types of agricultural plastic film and a new ‘solid waste’ law’ brought increased fines for non-observance of recycling rules and requires the construction of new recycling infrastructure.

Wang Wang, chairman of the China Scrap Plastic Association, quoted by Reuters, said the bans would resolve only ‘the most visible types of plastic pollution’ and were just a part of the country’s efforts to tackle waste. The business impact of the measures would be limited with firms aware in advance that some products would be banned, he added.

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