China — one of the world’s largest consumers of plastic — is set to ban single-use plastic bags and straws, according to Reuters.
According to a plan released by the National Development and Reform Commission on Sunday, traditional single-use plastic bags will be prohibited across all key cities by the end of the year and nationwide by 2022 — except for fresh produce markets, which will have until 2025 to make the transition.
Single-use plastic straws in the restaurant industry will likewise be banned by 2020.
Additional single-use items, like plastic utensils, will also be discontinued over time — with restaurants across the country told to cut their distribution and use by 30% over the next five years.
"It's the first time Beijing has recognized single-use plastics as a major problem and specified the urgent necessity to significantly reduce them," environmental organization Greenpeace tweeted in response to the announcement.
It’s the first time Beijing has recognised single-use plastics as a major problem and specified the urgent necessity to significantly reduce them. #BreakFreeFromPlastic >>https://t.co/82qv26uzhdhttps://t.co/dz9f9mbw7q— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) January 20, 2020
China’s announcement is in response to the scale of its plastic pollution problem.
The nation remains the world's leading producer of plastic waste. In 2010, China produced 60 million tons of plastic waste, according to Our World in Data, a report published in 2018 by the University of Oxford.
"With the largest population, China produced the largest quantity of plastic, at nearly 60 million tons. This was followed by the United States at 38 million, Germany at 14.5 million and Brazil at 12 million tons,” the report details. “China also contributes the highest share of mismanaged plastic waste, with around 28% of the global total, followed by 10% in Indonesia, and 6% for both the Philippines and Vietnam.”
This isn't the first time China has introduced laws around plastic production and management.
In 2008, the country forbid retailers from supplying customers with free plastic bags and stopped producers from manufacturing plastic bags less than 0.000098 inches thick — the thinnest type available.
Then, in 2017, China introduced a complete ban on the import of non-industrial plastic waste, which previously saw the nation import upwards of nine million tons of plastic waste each year.
China’s single-use plastic ban follows similar crackdowns on plastic by Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea, Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia’s capital Jakarta and famous holiday island Bali.