On Tuesday, China took another big step towards improving its environmental impact and image by banning production of ultra-thin plastic bags and forbidding supermarkets and shops from handing them out freely.
China's cabinet, the State Council, announced the new rule, which will go into effect June 1. In a posting on the central government website it said the nation uses too many of the bags, wasting valuable oil resources and littering the nation with waste.
"Our country consumes huge amounts of plastic bags every year. While providing convenience to consumers, they have also caused serious pollution, and waste of energy and resources, because of excessive use and inadequate recycling," the announcement said.
The new rule is the latest in a series of efforts to reduce waste and improve air and water quality in the country where years of tremendous economic growth have taken a toll on environmental and public health.
"We should encourage people to return to carrying cloth bags, using baskets for their vegetables," the notice said.
Beginning in June the manufacture of bags under 0.025 mm thick will be banned, and the government says fines and confiscation of goods and profits will take place if firms ignore the rule.
China joins a growing number of countries from Ireland to South Africa that are using heavy taxes and bans to eliminate plastic bags. In countries, like the U.S. where the federal government hasn't acted on the issue, municipalities are taking the lead. Most recently, San Francisco banned the free distribution of plastic bags.
According to a report on the website of China Trade News, Chinese residents use up to 3 billion plastic bags a day, causing the country to refine 37 million barrels of crude oil each year to make the bags.