China to ramp up recycling, incineration in new plastic pollution push

Plastic bottles are seen in a ditch where floodwaters have receded following heavy rainfall in Xinxiang, Henan province, China July 25, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Aly Song

SHANGHAI, Sept 15 (Reuters) - China will boost its plastic recycling and incineration capabilities, promote "green" plastic products and take action against the overuse of plastic in packaging and agriculture, it said in a 2021-2025 "five-year plan" published on Wednesday.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the top state planning agency, said in a notice that China needed to improve "the entire chain of plastic pollution control", which it described as a "worldwide problem".

"The essence of plastic pollution is that plastic waste leaks into natural environments like soil and water and is hard to degrade, causing visual pollution, soil damage, microplastics and other environmental hazards," an NDRC spokesman said.

The new five-year plan will encourage retailers and delivery firms to cut "unreasonable" plastic packaging and raise waste urban incineration rates to around 800,000 tonnes per day by 2025, up from 580,000 tonnes last year.

It will ban the production of ultra-thin plastic bags nationwide as well as personal care products that contain plastic microbeads, which are banned in the United States and Europe.

It will also promote the use of alternative products such as bamboo, wood, paper and new biodegradable plastics, it said.

It also wants to boost recycling rates for agricultural plastic mulch to 85%. Thin plastic film is used to conserve heat and moisture throughout China's northern regions, but its residues can contaminate crops and reduce soil fertility.

China produces more than 60 million tonnes of plastic a year, but its recycling rate is only around 30%.

To try to tackle the problem, it has already encouraged major cities to introduce trash sorting policies, build industrial-scale recycling plants and ban restaurants and e-commerce platforms from using single-use products like plastic straws and shopping bags.

A new solid waste law also came into effect last year, which raised fines for offenders tenfold and mandated the construction of new recycling infrastructure.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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