China, aiming to enter the world market as an economic powerhouse, has raised the need for domestic production of technology in its five-year plans since 20 years ago, even in the environmental field as well, they have proceeded with the tightening of the regulations and the relevant technologies. By strengthening these, it has fiercely sought to strengthen the competitiveness of its own products in the global market.
As there have seen the global sense of crisis about marine plastic pollution that has increased a few years ago as well as the efforts made by global societies including developing countries to deal with plastic issues, likewise, China enacted a law to ban the import of waste plastics in December 2017 as part of its countermeasures against internal waste plastic issues. Since that, it appears that China has full-fledgedly started and has been progressing steadily its measures against plastic issues.
Especially since January 2020, the efforts have been accelerating, and in terms of related environmental laws and regulations, we can see that China will not miss the wave of tightening regulations in Europe and the United States, and that China will play a leading role in the trend of countermeasures.
The main laws and systems newly promulgated or announced regarding plastic regulations from January 2020 until May 2021 are as follows, even at the national level.
Flow of plastic regulations after January 2020 in China
- January 16, 2020: Promulgation of “Opinions on Further Strengthening of Plastic Pollution Control“
- April 10, 2020: Promulgation of “List of Plastic Products Prohibiting / Restricting Production, Sales and Use (Opinion Request Manuscript)“
- April 29, 2020: Promulgation of revised “Solid Waste Pollution Control Law“
- July 10, 2020: Announcement of “Notice Concerning Steady Promotion of Plastic Pollution Control Business“
- September 2, 2020: Announcement of “Proposal for Joint Implementation of Plastic Waste Collection and Disposal“
- September 13, 2020: Announcement of “Guidelines for Classification and Labeling of Biodegradable Plastic Products“
- January 18, 2021: Promulgation of the group standard “Plastic product easy collection / easy regeneration design evaluation general rules“
Notable guidelines and group standards: why they are important?
Among these, the revised “Solid Waste Pollution Control Law” is important as it clearly directs the necessity of collecting and recycling waste plastic in the Basic Law, but more noteworthy ones are the two guidelines: “Guidelines for classification and labeling standards for degradable plastic products” and the group standard “General rules for easy recovery and recycling design evaluation of plastic products”. Neither is enforceable, but these show China’s willingness to lead the world in this regulatory sphere.
First of all, it is worthy of evaluation that the guidelines have further advanced their views on the classification and labeling while the definition and classification of biodegradable plastics, including the efforts in EU, remain unclear when looking at the entire world.
Second, the group standards, which specify standards for design to facilitate recovery and reuse, are arbitrary, non-enforceable standards, but it can be said that it is epoch-making as the first to specify the evaluation index system and evaluation method for easy design for collection and reuse of plastic products, among relevant legislation that remains ambiguous. .
Outline of major laws and guidelines:
1. National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Ecology and Environment promulgated “Opinions on Further Strengthening of Plastic Pollution Countermeasures” (January 16, 2020)
Prohibition requirements for production, sales, etc
- Production and sales of ultra-thin plastic shopping bags with a thickness of less than 0.025 mm and polyethylene mulching films with a thickness of less than 0.01 mm.
- Production and sale of disposable foam plastic tableware and disposable plastic cotton swabs.
- Production of daily chemical products including micro plastic.
- Total import of waste plastic.
Prohibition / restriction requirements for use
- Indegradable plastic shopping bags: By the end of 2020, use of indegradable plastic shopping bags will be prohibited for take-out and exhibitions at markets, supermarkets, drug stores, bookstores, etc. in the urban areas of major cities, provincial capitals and planned municipalities. By the end of 2022, the scope of prohibition will be expanded to urban areas of cities above prefecture-level cities and urban areas of prefectures in coastal areas.
- Plastic disposable tableware: At the end of 2020, the use of indegradable plastic straws will be banned in the food service industry nationwide.
2. National Development and Reform Commission promulgated “List of Plastic Products whose Production, Sales and Use are Prohibited (Opinion Manuscript)” (April 10, 2020)
This List is created based on the “Opinion on Further Strengthening of Plastic Pollution Control” promulgated on January 16, 2020.
(1) Main plastic products whose production and sales are prohibited
|Type||Standards for Targets||Supplementary explanation|
|Ultra-thin plastic shopping bag with a thickness of less than 0.025 mm||A plastic shopping bag with a thickness of less than 0.025 mm for storing and carrying things|
|Daily chemicals containing plastic beads||Cosmetics and toothpastes used for cleaning, in which solid plastic granules with a particle size of less than 5 mm are intentionally added because of their effects such as polishing, exfoliating, and cleaning.||Excludes plastic beads that are accidentally placed in the outer packaging of products or that do not have a specific effect.|
(2) Main plastic products whose use is prohibited or restricted
|Type||Standards for Targets||Supplementary explanation|
|Indegradable plastic shopping bags||Indegradable plastic shopping bags for storing or carrying things||Plastic bags and wraps that pre-wrap raw foods for the purpose of hygiene and food safety are not covered.|
|Indegradable plastic packaging bag for mailing||Indegradable plastic packaging bag used for postal bags|
3. National People’s Congress passed the revised “Solid Waste Pollution Control Law”, officially promulgated in April 2020：Enforced from September 1, 2020
- Clarification of the principles of weight reduction, resource recovery, and detoxification in preventing solid waste pollution
- Strengthening measures against excessive packaging and plastic pollution
- Stipulation on compliance with compulsory standards regarding excessive packaging regulations and on implementation of collection of the products required to be compulsorily collected and the packages included in the package list.
- It was announced that, based on the law, the sale and use of disposable plastic products such as indegradable plastic bags should be prohibited or restricted, and that recyclable, easy-to-recover and degradable alternative products should be spread and promoted.
4. Nine administrative agencies such as the National Development and Reform Commission announced “Notice Concerning Steady Promotion of Plastic Pollution Control Operations” (July 10, 2020)
This aims to achieve, as scheduled, the goals to be achieved by the end of 2020 set forth in the “Opinions on Further Strengthening of Plastic Contamination Countermeasures” promulgated on January 16, 2020 and also aims to strengthen the supervision inspection for the products whose production and sales are prohibited.
- Agricultural departments in each region are required to try out the extended producer responsibility (EPR) system for mulching films and implement a trade-in system.
- “Detailed Standards on Prohibition and Restriction for Relevant Plastic Products (2020 version)” is attached, and based on this, the range (10 items) of plastic products subject to the prohibition and restriction is set up.
5. Renewable Resources Recycling Association, etc. announced “Proposal for Joint Implementation of Plastic Waste Collection and Disposal”
Based on the “Notice Concerning Steady Promotion of Plastic Pollution Control Operations” promulgated by the National Development and Reform Commission of China on July 10, 2020, the China Petrochemical Industry Association, the China Circular Economy Association, the China Recycling Association, the China Renewable Resources Recycling Association and the China Urban Environmental Sanitation Association jointly announced the “Joint Proposal for Joint Implementation of Plastic Waste Collection and Disposal”, on September 2, 2020,
The above-mentioned industrial associations are calling on related companies to jointly work on plastic pollution countermeasures in order to standardize the separate collection and disposal of waste plastics and raise the level of resource recycling and utilization as energy.
6. China Light Industry Association announced “Guidelines for Classification and Labeling Rule of Biodegradable Plastic Products”
On September 13, 2020, the China Light Industry Association established and announced the “Guidelines for Classification and Labeling Rule of Biodegradable Plastic Products” to further clarify the concept and definition of biodegradable plastics, as well as to present specific requirements in the five aspects such as scope of the target plastics, definition and classification of the products, decomposition performance measurement method, labeling requirements, display style, and norms. At the same time, the “Guidelines” require users and other parties concerned of plastics such as manufacturers, sales companies, retail supermarkets and restaurants to seriously implement the individual policies and measure for plastic pollution control in the country as well as to label and procure the products appropriately and strengthen the management of labeling.
In addition, the Directorate General of Market Supervision and Administration plans to accelerate the establishment of national standards for biodegradable plastic products in order to promote the sound development of the industry.
(1) As the labeling of biodegradable plastics, the Guidelines stipulate an indication by letters and an indication by marks. In the indication by letters, it is required that the type of product (resin, main raw material, special raw material, film, chip material, box, glass), standard of product or standard of measurement method of degradability, product name (environmental condition for degradation + specific product name), product standards (length, width, thickness, weight), and material must be indicated.
(2) In the indication by marks, there is a figure in the center of the mark that designs two “j” in the Roman alphabet “jiangjie” of the Chinese word “降解” which means “degradation”, and it is surrounded in a circle by three arrows shaped like arcs, symbolizing a circular of reuse. In the figure of “jj”, the right j is larger than the left j, and represents the idea that people, from children to the elderly, each loves and protects the environment. Below the mark, the abbreviation of the materials, the environment for degradation, etc. are displayed.
7. China Material Recycling Association promulgated a group standard “General Rule: Easy Recovery / Easy Recycling Design Evaluation for Plastic Products” –Stipulated easy recovery and easy reproducibility evaluation indexes
On January 18, 2021, the China Material Recycling Association promulgated a group standard “ General Rule: Easy Recovery / Easy Recycling Design Evaluation for Plastic Products ” (T / CRRA 0302-2020), which stipulates evaluation indexes for designs that facilitate the collection and recycling of plastic products. The standard came into effect on February 1, 2021. The outline of the standard is as follows.
Scope of application
- The group standard stipulates the evaluation index system and evaluation method for easy recovery / recycling design, and is applied to the guidance and evaluation process of easy recovery / recycling design for plastic products.
- The group standard does not apply to biodegradable plastic products and plastic products listed on the “National Hazardous Waste List”.
Evaluation index system
It is classified into the 1st grade evaluation index and the 2nd grade evaluation index. The main evaluation indexes are as follows (a quantitative index or a qualitative index is adopted depending on the current state of the industry).
- Main material
- Auxiliary material
- Easy recovery
- Easy recycling
- Environmental compatibility and safety
Background and future development
According to Mr. Wang, Secretary General of the Recycled Plastics Subcommittee of the China Material Recycling Association, it is difficult to collect waste plastics because of the wide variety of materials, colors, and shapes of current plastic products. In response to this situation, the above standard was established in order to further raise the recovery rate and recycling rate of waste plastics. The “General Rule” standard promulgated this time applies to general plastic products. The rule will be further subdivided into “detailed rules” standards, which will be established in the future, according to experts familiar with the matter.