Plastic in China

The United Nations laments, “We are already unable to cope with the amount of plastic waste we generate, unless we rethink the way we manufacture, use and manage plastics. Ultimately, tackling one of the biggest environmental scourges of our time will require governments to regulate, businesses to innovate and individuals to act.”

In 2018, China produced an estimated 60 million metric tons of plastic. The central government now wants to address the enormous waste this production inexorably presents.

The Chinese government has announced pending restrictions on the production, sale, and use of plastic. Plastic bags are banned in all major cities by the end of this year, and all urban areas in 2022. Fresh produce markets have until 2025 to stop their use of plastics.

Restaurants in China are banned from doling out single-use plastic straws at the end of this year. The government aims for use of single-use plastics to be reduced by at least 30% by 2025.

China has also banned the import of all plastic waste. The production and sale of thin plastic sheets and bags will soon be banned (the date was not announced).

Finally, China is boosting the recycling of plastics where possible as part of its war on waste.

China is now stepping ahead of other large industrialized nations in its efforts to reduce plastic waste. (The chart shown is from 2017.)


Reuters, “China moves to phase out single-use plastics,” The Guardian (19 January 2020).

Jackie Flynn Morgensen, “China announces major anti-plastic campaign,” Mother Jones (19 January 2020).

Carole Excell, “127 countries now regulate plastic bags. Why aren’t we seeing less pollution?,” World Resources Institute (11 March 2019).

Kiprop, Joseph. “Which countries have banned plastic bags?WorldAtlas (29 August 2018).