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China's plastic pollution control provides reference for the world

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2023.02.21
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China has always attached great importance to the treatment of plastic pollution, always fully implemented the concept of circular economy, controlled disposable plastic products at the source of production and consumption with the depth and breadth of the whole chain, increased the recycling efforts at the end of waste plastic recycling and disposal, built a complete plastic recycling economy development system, and achieved remarkable results, becoming a responsible major country in the global plastic pollution treatment.

As early as 2001, China issued a policy to stop the production of disposable foam plastic tableware. In 2008, China banned the production, sale and use of plastic shopping bags with thickness less than 0.025 mm, and implemented the paid use system of plastic shopping bags in all supermarkets, shopping malls, market markets and other retail places. The same policy was implemented in the United Kingdom, France, Italy and some states in the United States in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2017, basically 10 years later than China. In 2020, China introduced a new plastic pollution control policy, extending the source reduction policy to more disposable plastic products, such as the addition of plastic beads, the elimination of disposable non-degradable plastic straws, and a wider coverage.

From the material itself, plastic, like steel, non-ferrous metals and other materials, has good recyclability. When waste plastic is effectively recycled and disposed, the plastic pollution problem will be solved. Therefore, China has actively taken measures to increase the recycling of waste plastics. As early as 1989, China issued a policy document to strengthen the management of plastic packaging waste in key transportation trunk lines, river basins and tourist attractions to prevent the accumulation of plastic packaging waste in rivers, lakes and coastal areas. Through years of efforts, China has gradually built a recycling system of waste plastics covering the whole society. According to the estimation of relevant industry associations, in 2021, China's waste plastic material recovery volume will be about 19 million tons, and the material recovery rate will reach 31%, 1.74 times the global average level, and * of the domestic material recovery will be achieved. In the same period, the recycling rates of local materials in the United States, the European Union and Japan were 5.31%, 17.18% and 12.50% respectively. In addition, China has actively promoted the energy recovery of plastic waste that cannot be used as material for the time being, and the energy utilization rate has reached 45.7%.

China adheres to the local recycling and disposal system of waste plastics, solves the problem of plastic pollution in China, and helps other countries and regions actively deal with the threat posed by plastic waste. From 2011 to 2020 alone, China has achieved a total of 170 million tons of various types of waste plastic recycling, becoming the world's largest single economy of waste plastic recycling, and becoming the backbone of the development of the global plastic recycling economy. As a co-lead country, China took the lead in revising the plastic waste amendment to the Basel Convention to promote the international plastic pollution control process. Since 2019, the Chinese government has also continued to strengthen the training of plastic pollution response capacity of developing countries, including plastic recycling economy and plastic pollution treatment into foreign aid training programs, and has trained more than 1000 government officials from more than 30 developing countries, making positive contributions to the improvement of plastic pollution treatment capacity of various countries.

China's plastic pollution control practice can provide reference for global plastic pollution control. First, plastic itself as a material cannot be equated with pollutants. The essence of plastic pollution is the environmental leakage after plastic use and waste. Second, carrying out the life-cycle treatment of plastic pollution is an important means to effectively prevent the leakage of plastic environment. By limiting the addition of plastic beads and the production of certain disposable non-degradable plastic products at the source, China has promoted the replacement of disposable plastic products in the consumption process, strengthened the recycling, disposal and utilization of discarded plastics, built a governance system covering the whole life cycle of plastics, and established producers, users The responsibility sharing and collaborative co-governance system of emitters ensures the effectiveness of plastic pollution control. Third, the construction of a complete plastic waste terminal collection and disposal system is a key link in the prevention and control of plastic pollution, because it can directly prevent plastic waste from leaking into the environment, which is the most priority measure for plastic pollution control. Fourth, the use and promotion of various alternative products need to carry out scientific comparative analysis, including the technical feasibility, economy, scalability, applicability, and comprehensive environmental impact of various alternative products, and on this basis, orderly promote, otherwise it will not only be beneficial to the treatment of plastic pollution, but also bring new impacts to the economic system and ecosystem.

(Zhang Deyuan, associate researcher of the Institute of Structural Reform of the Institute of Macroeconomics of the National Development and Reform Commission)

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