The Chinese use up to 3 billion plastic shopping bags a day.
Often, the flimsy bags are used once and discarded, adding to waste in a country grappling with air and water pollution as a result of rapid economic transformation, officials said.
'Our country consumes a large amount of plastic bags. While convenient for consumers, the bags also lead to a severe waste of resources and environmental pollution because of their excessive use and low rate of recycling,' the statement at the Web site Gov.cn said. 'The ultra-thin bags are the main source of 'white' pollution as they can easily get broken and end up as litter.'
The government statement added, 'We should encourage people to return to carrying cloth bags, using baskets for their vegetables.'
More durable plastic bags still will be allowed for sale by markets and shops, The Associated Press reported.
Could the US be next? Connecticut legislators are also considering baning plastic bags:
A bill before the General Assembly would prohibit retails from using or distributing nonbiodegradable plastic bags on or after Jan. 1, 2010. Retailers could face fines ranging from $200 to $1,000.
But this bill has mixed reviews:
Martin Mador, of the Sierra Club, said he worries the Connecticut bill will drive people back to using paper bags, which have their own environmental issues. Instead, his organization is recommending the state charge shoppers 5 cents for every paper or plastic bag they use.
Four cents could be used to pay for recycling programs, while a penny would be returned to the retailer. Also, Mador said the fee would likely discourage shoppers from using the bags, dramatically reducing their numbers.
'Why does this work? Because everybody wins,' Mador said. 'Let the public use the plastic bags if they like, but charge them for it ... Use the economic engine to solve the problem for you.'
The bill awaits action by the Environment Committee.