Sun 1 Jeffrey Sun Borgia ESL 015 12/10/2010 Can TheEnvironment in China be Saved by Charging Plastic Bags? Since June 1st 2008, China has regulated the consumption of plastic bags by charging from 20 cents to 50 cents RMB differentially according to the quality and size in order to reduce the environmental pollution of plastic bags. We have been using free plastic bags in common for more than 30 years in China, reported by Editor Yingling Liu fromWorldWatch Institute(Liu).Many people that consider plastic bags is a convenient way to containarticles but it is defined as ??white pollution?? to our environment, which means the polyethylene is an indissoluble part of plastic bags. in an interview with China National Development and Reform Commissionreported by XinhuaNews at the end of 2008, the daily consumption of plastic bags in China is 0.4 million tons and the CO2 emission from the production of this amount of plastic bags is estimated 40,000 grams(Wang, Y.). This threatens the ecosystem. Government officials argue that their policy should be a good way to reduce the consumption of plastic bags by charging a certain price for their use with the prediction of one-third reduction in the consumption of plastic bags. But even if people have to pay for plastic bags, there are many other issues, such as businesses?? profit incentives, customers?? value judgment on environment versus price, and government inspection
Sun 2 failure to punish the illegal trade of plastic bags; these issues affect the consumption of plastic bags which is not achievable by charging a price. Therefore, the adoption of this banning policy of plastic bags eventually fails to obtain the ideal outcome of less pollution.
First of all, ??Providing free plastic shopping bags to customers is a marketing strategy adopted by supermarkets to improve their services and attract more shoppers.?? (Zhang) Many supermarkets in China still offer cheap free plastic bags to consumers because they could earn greater economic rewards from consumers comparing to the operation costs on plastic bags.By this point, supermarkets have gained the hidden profits through the strategy of offering free plastic bags, and consumers enjoy the convenience brought by plastic bags.
However, in China, cheap plastic bags offered freely by supermarkets are usually ??ultra-thin?? plastic bags,that is the plastic with thickness less than 0.025mm. From Wikipedia, ??ultra-thin?? plastic bags are made from a mixture of recycled industrial plastic which contains toxic polyethylene and cannot be dissolved in soil for 300 years. Those ??ultra-thin?? plastic bags can pollute fields, soils,
and rivers. For customers, they enjoy the convenience brought by free cheap ??ultra-thin?? plastic bags. And for businesses, it is a way to increases the profitability by providing free plastic bags to attract consumers. As resulted in providing free plastic bags, the use of ??ultra-thin?? plastic is even more frequent than it was previously, and further, this pollutes the environment in China when ??ultra-thin?? plastic bags are not recyclable and dissolvable. In an academic research project researched by student Zeng Wang from Zhongnan University of Economics and
Sun 3 Law demonstrates that 80% businesses know this banning policy on plastic bags, however, only 77% in this portion of businesses hold supportive opinion on this policy. 76% among the businesses are still using and providing ??ultra-thin?? plastic bags, only 19% provide environmental-friendly bags and charge price for them (12-14).The destructive impact is that plastic bags have on oceans and marine life. ??Tossed into waterways or washed down storm drains, the bags are the major source of human-related debris on the seabed, particularly near coastlines.?? (Herro) This significantly affects the environment and natural development in China. In an interview, conducted by reporter Ying He fromSinaNews, with a Chinese local retailer, the owner said that cost of the small size of ??ultra-thin?? plastic is 2.5RMB for 50, and retail price is 20 cents. The profitability is 400%. And in average, they could sell about 1000 plastic bags per day. In the same report, a shopper of Carrefour in Shanghai claims that the monthly cost of plastic bags is raised from 20,000RMB to 50,000RMB, because it provides free bags for fresh fruit and vegetables, and many people take a dozen from the sector to get rid of paying extra for dissolvable plastic bags(He).As we can see from this data of supermarket cost records, the consumption of plastic bags after adopting the banning policy may even increases and brings more detrimental effect. On the consumers?? side, plastic bags have been used in China for 30 years already; people are hard to change their shopping habit on using plastic bags. A retired factory worker Xiulan Tang in the interview with Los Angeles Times said as she juggled several plastic bags loaded with pork ??I should too, but don't because we're all lazy. The difficult part is changing old habits.?? (Magnier) In a research from Southwestern
Sun 4 University of Finance and Economics, the author Zeng Cui, who is a professor in economics, provides the data that shows that 38% consumers have difficulty to find substitute for plastic bags, 35% consumers think that the banning policy of plastic bags affects the convenience of their life and 59% consumers support that the traders should provide free plastic bags to customers. Only 4% consumers accept the idea of plastic banning policy(5). Thus when the plastic bags are charged, consumers are not desirable to pay extra fee on plastic bags.
An example of Wal-Mart of North China, reported by FengGuo from Beijing Times, indicates that the consumers refuse to pay for expensive dissolvable plastic bags or cloth bags. According to the Wal-Mart marketing manager??s interview at the end of 2009, Wal-Mart has closely followed the policy and sells dissolvable plastic bags and cloth bags with high cost of 3 RMB each; however, there are free plastic bags in the fresh fruit and vegetable section used for unwrapped fruits and vegetables. Many customers frequently choose to take fruit bags or purchase cheap plastic bags. The manager also claims that if the nation does not have enforcement on the policy, and a unified size and price for plastic bags, it would be hard to promote protecting the environment by charging a price on plastic bags in order to reduce its consumption(Guo). This, hence, gives rise to government policy failure and loopholes in this banning policy. We can see it is unlikely to eliminate the pollution of plastic bags by charging a fee. Especially in a market economy, the mechanism depends on economic benefit, but not environmental benefit because both businesses and rational customers try to maximize their own benefits, thus the outcome is not optimistic.
Sun 5 Another reason for the failure in the policy of charging plastic bags is from the government side. Yiqing Wu, a professor in The Party School of Shandong China says in China, the government published information on the banning policy on the government??s official website and announced that this policy primarily gives the right to customers to report free ??ultra-thin?? plastic bags to the government inspection department(19). However, the reality is consumers gain convenience from free plastic and businesses receive more profit when they attract consumers by providing free plastic bags. This benefit-based relationship leads to the failure of ??consumer inspection??. The ultimate goal of the banning policy of plastic bags is to strengthen people??s awareness on environment protection and efficient use of resources, in order to build everyone??s social responsibility on ecosystem protection rather than simply charge the use of plastic bags. However the Chinese government does not really consider about the propaganda of environmental protection and recycling industry in China, as mentioned by Professor Wei Dou from Northeast Agricultural University, College of Economics and Management(37). The use of plastic bags and effective recycle of plastic should be closely connected together if the government wants to achieve this banning policy, and the government should deliver the message of the importance of environmental protection to people. This will ultimately stimulate the renewable resources usage and improve ecosystem in China. Although at the first month of adoption plastic bags banning policy, 30% of consumers support this policy and purchase for dissolvable bags in the research
surveyed by State Environmental Protection Administration of Shanghai Qingpu (??The Effects??),but after 6 months there are no specific records on the reducing trend of plastic
Sun 6 bags consumption.The results go up to the original and even beyond the past as illustrated by other sources used in this paper. Generally, there are many loopholes in the policy of charging a price for plastic bags and it is still not mature to adapt in the Chinese market where there is no unified price and size on plastic bags, and the inspection department does not have a punitive measure for offering free plastic bags. As we can see, the plastic pollution in China nowadays has becomes more serious, daily consumption of 3 billion plastic bags and 40,000 grams of CO2 emission tremendously harms out environment and marine life(Wang, Y.) .Currently from the statistics and research, there is no evidence shows environment can be protected by charging plastic bags, but I hope in the future our society can build a good atmosphere to tackle environment pollution problem. The government should introduce an effective solution to this problem rather than the plastic bags banning policy. This solution could include education program on plastic pollution to citizens, improve the recycle industry in China, find environmentally friendly substitutes for plastic bags and strengthen market inspection and punishment policy.
Sun 7 Work cited
Cui, Zheng. ??A Brief Analysis of ??Plastic Bags Banning Policy??.Ç?Îö??ÏÞËÜÁî??Õþ?ßµÄÖÆ ???? Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (Jun. 2010): 5. Print.
Dou, Wei, Yaqi Yang and Xueping Han. ??Enforcement Effect and Countermeasure
Study on ??Plastic Limited Order?? Policy?? Communication Platform (Feb. 2010): 37. Print.
??Environment of China?? Wikipedia. 23 Nov. 2010. Web.19 Doc. 2010. Guo, Feng. ??Voice from The State Council: No Free Plastic Bags Since 1 June. ?úÎñÔº??
ÎÄ?º??ÊÐ 6 ÔÂ 1 ÈÕÆð?ûÓÃÃâ?ÑËÜÁÏ?ü?? Beijing Times 9 Jan. 2008: A03. Print.
Herro, Alana. ??New Bans on Plastic Bags May Help Protect Marine Life?? WorldWatch
Institute. 9 Jan. 2008. Web. 10 Dec. 2010.
He, Yingsi, HaixingXu and Jianyi Lu. ??The Reviving of ??Ultra-Thin?? Plastic Bags.????
ËÜÁÏ?üËÀ?Ò??È??? SinaNews. 7 Jul. 2010. Web. 25 Nov. 2010.
Liu, Yingling. ??Plastic Bag Ban Trumps Market and Consumer Efforts?? WorldWatch
Institute. Jun. 2008. Web. 19 Nov. 2010.
Sun 8 Magnier, Mark. ??Poking Holes in China's Plan to Ban Plastic
Bags.??Los Angeles Times 26 Jan. 2008. Web. 20 Oct. 2010. ??The Effects of ??Plastic Bags Banning Policy?? and People??s Environment Awareness.Õý ?æÉÌ??"ÏÞËÜÁî"Ð??ûÃ?ÏÔÃñÖÚ????ÒâÊ?ÔöÇ??? State Environmental Protection Administration of Shanghai Qingpu. 8 Sep. 2008. Web. 10 Dec. 2010 Wang, Youling. ??The Crude Oil Consumption in China Reaches 130 Million per Day. ÎÒ ?úÆ??ùÃ?ÌìÊ?ÓÃËÜÁÏ?ºÎï?üºÄÊ?ÓÍÖÁÉÙ 13000 ?à?Ö?? XinhuaNews. Jun. 2008. Web. 30 Oct. 2010 Wu, Yiqing. ??Change and Reverberation after Ban on Free Plastic Bags in China?? Environmental Science and Management 34 (2009): 19. Print. Wang, Zeng. ??An Analysis of the Social Effects of ??Plastic Bags Banning Policy?? with Examples.ÏÞËÜÁî??µÄÉç?áÐ?Ó?ºÍÕþ?ßÉúÃüÁ?µÄÊµÖ??ÖÎö?? Zhongnan University of Economics and Law (2008): 12-14. Print. Zhang, Runhua. ??Plastic Pollution Poses Problem??,Beijing Review Jan. 2008. Web. 09 Oct. 2010.