China Bans Flimsy Plastic Shopping Bags

The AP says that China has banned thin flimsy shopping bags:

The measure, effective June 1, eliminates the flimsiest bags and forces stores to charge for more durable bags, making China the latest nation to target plastic bags in a bid to cut waste and conserve resources.

Beijing residents appeared to take the ban in stride, reflecting rising environmental consciousness and concern over rocketing oil prices.

“If we can reduce waste and save resources, then it’s good both for us and the whole world,” said college student Xu Lixian, who was buying tangerines out of cardboard boxes at a sidewalk stall.

The new rules prohibit businesses from manufacturing, selling or using bags less than 0.025 millimeters. More durable reusable bags are allowed and can be sold to consumers.

Using reusable bags is a good idea. Banning them. Um. Not really our thing.

Your thoughts?

Shoppers: It’s BYO as China bans plastic bags
[USAToday] (Thanks, Rob!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. m.ravian says:

    why is banning these bad again?

  2. FLConsumer says:

    Oh, the irony….

    Of course, this won’t happen here.

  3. DrGirlfriend says:

    I’m kinda agreeing with the Chinese, actually. Ban them, but have some plastic bags available for purchase that are a bit sturdier and may survive a few more uses.

    I saw the same thing in Germany. I went to a grocery store and when I went to pay, I was surprised to learn that if I needed a bag I had to pay for it. It was a few cents, nothing major, but it was indeed a better-quality bag than what you find in our own grocery stores. Also, they didn’t have a million of them, it was a small stack. By all appearances, demand for the bags was lowered by the fact that you had to buy them. Lower demand, less production. So I saved the bag, folded it into my purse, and re-used it a few more times while I was there.

  4. Siegeman says:

    *shrug* I reuse my plastic grocery bags as trash bags, omit using plastic fruit/vegetable bags, and use my backpack for transport whenever possible.

    Remember kids, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

  5. snoop-blog says:

    don’t get me started on china. too good for plastic bags, but working children in dangerous environments at sweat shops is cool as long as it doesn’t hurt the environment.

  6. emilymarion333 says:

    I see nothing wrong with this. Ikea does the same thing in Sacramento. The first time I had to buy a bag – but ever since then I remembered to bring in the re-usable bag I had to buy from the prior visit.

  7. RagingTowers says:

    They should just make Lead Bags, they seem to have an abundance of it over there…

  8. char says:

    Dr. girlfriend I agree totally, why not just tax those thin bags, make something patently terrible for our world less viable. Apparently in India they are an enviromental crisis, found in cows stomachs, they clog drains and cause flooding. btw Awesome name and icon. Venture brothers for life.

  9. mattshu says:

    There is a complete difference between the government forcing business to eliminate these bags and stores individually choosing to not use them.

    One is called communism and one is called the free market (which I know a lot of you think is a swear word).

  10. DJC says:

    I dont’ get how this is bad?
    Go to Europe, they charge for plastic bags at (super)markets. Albeit the charge is like 2-5 cents.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I have my doubts that anyone will actually recyle and use the same bags all the time. Now everyone will just be throwing out thicker plastic bags, making for MORE waste. I’d like to think everyone would reuse their bags, but, c’mon… will they really?

  12. Anonymous says:

    ps. they charge for bags here in Canada all the time

  13. morganlh85 says:

    We did a totebag sale for a fundraiser, and these are some of the facts about plastic shopping bags:

    -Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year
    -A family of four uses 1460 plastic bags a year
    -There are 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square mile of the ocean
    -Most places with those plastic bag “recycling” bins actually send their bags overseas to places like Indonesia, where lax environmental standards allow the bags to be burned rather than actually recycled.

    So I don’t see why banning these bags, or creative incentives to stop their use, is a bad idea.

  14. officeboy says:

    Seriously, when will people work out the difference between free market and the rape and plunder of the earth. Free market or not, people and businesses need to be held 100% responsible for the waste and damage they generate. Financially responsible. Maybe we don’t want to ban these bags, but I think a $5 tax per bag might start to pay for recovery of these out of the ocean or collection of them on the streets.

    Now where is my $1 a lb for carbon emissions tax?

  15. varco says:

    In China, they use these really flimsy plastic bags that are a lot thinner (and smaller) than most American plastic shopping bags. And they’re used by everyone (vendors, grocery stores, etc).

  16. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @snoop-blog: Because people have no worth when you have over a billion of them to work with. Look at the Korean war Chinese troops used massive charges where they lost thousands and thousands of troops. They really didn’t care about a few thousand men. Same thing here less mouths to feed.

  17. theirishscion says:

    Eh, it’s been like this for some years in Ireland. Everyone just brings reusable shopping bags when they go grocery shopping. I don’t remember them even offering to sell heavier duty bags, you were just SOL if you didn’t bring one with you (I got caught out several times.) There was evidently a small collective screaming hissy-fit when the legislation first went into effect, while everyone learned to bring their own bags with them, and then they got over themselves and that was it.

    Interestingly enough, there was a _noticeable_ reduction in the amount of nasty dead shopping bag littering the side of the road compared to when I last lived there in the late 90s, to say nothing of the resource benefits. So whilst this would be a mild inconvenience to begin with in the US, I must say I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

  18. silvanx says:

    People should be encouraged to bring their own shopping bags.

    Just making sure the plastic is thicker does not ensure people will bring the thicker plastic bag next time. I really hope China doesn’t go the way of the US, where you can get everything disposable for the sake of convenience (laziness).

  19. hn333 says:

    Way to go China. I look forward to the day when you take over America.

  20. inspiron says:

    Using reusable bags is a great idea but don’t ban them!!

    I hope the united states does not decide to follow this.

  21. shrtcrt says:

    We need to get out of being a one time use world. I bought some canvas bags that I use for groceries and I have a few small ones that I keep in the car. The small one folds us in a little pouch and I just take that into the store.

    @SIEGEMAN: I am glad you found a use for the bags, but still plastic stays around forever. A paper bag would be better, or recycle the plastic one

  22. shanaynay says:

    Why not ban them? Just because we should be able to be wasteful if we want? That’s ridiculous. IMO, China has a lot of work to do on social and environmental responsibility, and I’m not going to go around crapping on their baby steps. Every little bit helps, and those bags are a scourge.

  23. newspapersaredead says:

    I’m actually going to agree with the environmentalists on this one. If the products are too heavy for the bag, then double bag it. I do that all the time when I’m going through the self checkout at the grocery store with items such as canned goods, but a single thin bag is okay for things such as potato chips. A heavy bag is not necessary for all items. I’m actually an environmentalist, I’m pinching myself.

  24. trujunglist says:

    I don’t really think giving kudos to China for this makes any sense at all. They’re just going to have the same amount of bags out there that take more resources to create and fill up landfills/oceans/streets faster due to their size. It’s not actually solving any problem other than people can now have a sturdier bag to use for dog poo/trash/throwing into the ocean. The resulting environmental impact is surely worse if people don’t actually limit the amount of bags they depend on to transport their crap. The solution is to charge for a bag like they do in Europe as earlier comments have pointed out. People might actually remember to bring bags with them if they’re consistently charged 20-50 cents for 1 plastic bag. I’d definitely remember, and I could permanently get rid of the bag collection under the sink by using reusing them until they break and then using them for dog poo/trash/throwing into the ocean.

  25. trujunglist says:

    P.S. I forgot to mention that 2-5 cents isn’t enough. It really has to be substantial or people will just eat that cost. Maybe not as much in China, but definitely in America, land of excess.

  26. goodkitty says:

    Or just take a messenger bag with you everywhere. I’m starting to think that some stores must believe I’m homeless, what with all the junk/groceries/clothes I cart around everywhere in there (including a few plastic bags, heh).

  27. sarahchirp says:

    Think of it less as “banning” and more like the plastic bag equivalent of emissions control.

  28. synergy says:

    I think it’s sad that China has so many more environmentally conscious laws that this one.

  29. Trai_Dep says:

    Have to say, when China does get clued in, they fix things lickity-split. At least in the case of leaded gasoline and, now, plastic bags. Tip o’ the hat to our future overlords (after Canada has had their wanton ways with us).

    And Free Marketers, Capitalism is precisely the wrong system to catch environmental harm, like this. Externalities (wiki the term if you’re not familiar) and a quarterly mindset pretty much guarantee that problems like these will fester, grow and prosper w/o sane counter-incentives.

  30. CapitalC says:

    Interesting … ban thin plastic bags, require thicker plastic bags (which will no doubt cause more environmental problems). People won’t reuse them, they’ll just be throwing away thicker plastic.

    Just ban them outright damnit. I hate those damned things.

  31. Craig says:

    @lookatmissohio: Banning them is bad because in this country freedom of choice is more important than impact of choice.

  32. bdgbill says:

    I was in France last year, shortly after the country had banned plastic shopping bags outright. It seemed a little crazy at first but really wasn’t that bad.

    Even people who forgot to take their bags with them simply dumped all their groceries loose into the back of their cars. The stores also make all manner of used boxes and containers available to customers (orange crates were particularly prized).

    It was just a tiny bit of extra effort for a big positive to the environment.

    I remember staying on the 18th floor of a big hotel on the Vegas strip a few years ago and regularly seeing plastic shopping bags float by my window. I have seen trees full of the bags in other areas.

  33. Electroqueen says:

    Well in Chinese society, the bags are used for many things. Flimsy bags just suck ’cause of the double baggin’ which causes more waste.
    Unlike Americans or western societies these bags are supposed to hold a day’s worth of garbage before they are thrown out. The one bag makes all the difference.

  34. Anitra says:

    @newspapersaredead: One grocery store in my area uses bags so flimsy that anything heavier/denser than a bag of potato chips or a loaf of bread will cause them to split. They double-bag EVERYTHING there.

    It also makes them impossible to reuse, because by the time I get them home, EVERY SINGLE BAG has a hole in it.

    I like the idea of using less bags or re-using, but I also don’t want to look like a crazy bag-lady like my mom does, bringing 6 or 8 canvas bags with her into the store.

  35. hexychick says:

    @emilymarion333: All Ikeas are doing that now. I had the same experience so I bought several and now I use them for everything I can think of. Very handy to keep one or two in the car too.

  36. Megladon says:


    K, i currently live in china (working for an american company) If you could see the amount of bags flying around in the wind its just amazing, bags are always caught along a fencline, blowing around in the street. Sure thats just because they’re to lazy to use a freeking trash can, but if you look at the aspect of there being 1.4 BILLION of these people around, and they use from what i’ve read close to 4 million of these plastic bags a day, you begin to understand the scope of the problem. Nasty lazy people + free plastic bags = big mess. They’re encouraging people to use cloth bags again, or baskets for their shopping trips, and it cant hurt to take that much trash out of the chinese landfills.

  37. brigidkeely says:

    Whole Foods Markets are phasing out plastic bags. IIRC, this started as a requirement in California, worked pretty ok, and the midwest region is the next target. Reusable bags cost $.99 and when you use them, you get a $.10 discount on your groceries. I’ve accumulated about 10 of these reusable bags (from WFM and from Jewell) and they’re really great and sturdy.

    I grew up shopping at discount grocery stores where they charged you for shopping bags if you didn’t bring your own/use boxes. That kind of seems like a viable way to reduce plastic bag use while also offering it to people who live in rainy places and want their groceries to stay dry as they walk home.

  38. Anonymous says:

    There is a store here that gives you bio-digratable plastic bags. So I guess its not really plastic but it looks and feels like plastic. It says right on the bag how long it takes to degrade depending on how you dispose of it. Here is from a website I found about them.

    “Oxo-biodegradable bags are made from 100% degradable plastics that will biodegrade over time once discarded in landfill sites or inadvertently littered in nature. They have an approximate shelf life of 24-36 months and will degrade in as little as 18 months once permanently exposed to the outside elements. These bags are just as sturdy as regular plastic bags, can be printed in the same fashion and are recyclable with traditional plastics. Oxo-biodegradable bags are also clean and safe. Once biodegraded, only humus, mineral salts and water are left in the soil, all naturally found substances that do not hinder on soil quality. This technology is government approved for food contact and holds the proper certifications in Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States”


    The government should just make these the mandatory solution, rahter than ‘thicker plastic’. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

  39. Megladon says:


    I dare you to come to china and say that. My co-workers are compiling a list of reasons named “why china will never rule the world”. I’d post it, but its mostly only funny to us because we see it every day and most people wouldnt understand or just think we’re being very mean or disrespectful to people here.

  40. Jaysyn was banned for: says:


    That’s pretty cool, I haven’t seen those yet. On the other hand, since plastic bags are made of oil, I doubt people in the USA will ever see any kind of sanctions like that against the companies that make them.

  41. larry_y says:

    Notice the timing, with the upcoming Olympics.

    I don’t know, banning it seems a bit of an overreaction. Better to change people’s behavior. I personally use canvas bags, because they don’t rip.

    Other countries have banned plastics bags including the aforementioned Ireland. Ironically, China is following that “renegade” province of theirs, Taiwan.

  42. SAGA says:


  43. Trai_Dep says:

    @brigidkeely: they’re a lot more expensive (for now). Although multiple solutions are good. So both approaches are better than the status quo. Good point!

  44. ladydisdain says:

    @ANITRASMITH: Who cares if someone thinks you look strange bringing your own bags into a store?

    I take my canvas bags everywhere – grocery stores, malls, Target, everywhere – and while I sometimes get a weird look, I couldn’t care less. Canvas bags are infinitely reusable, hold more than plastic, are sturdier than plastic, and are easier to carry into the house because I can loop a bunch over my shoulder.

    I think plastic bags in stores should cost at least $1.

  45. witeowl says:

    1) Sorry: “Using reusable bags is a good idea. Banning them. Um. Not really our thing.” Banning… reusable bags? o_O It took me quite a few readings to realize to what your pronoun referring.

    2) They’re already charging you for the disposable bags. (What, you think they don’t pass the cost on to us?) At this point, you can get incentives (discounts) in most stores by using your own bags. It would be far better, IMO, if they started charging lazy people who can’t be bothered to bring their own reusable bags.

    So, you’re right. Don’t ban reusable bags; charge for them. Call it a lazy shopper tax.