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February 2, 2013

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Packaging limits kick off to mixed reactions

A LOCAL law that prohibits excessive packaging of many consumer goods took effect yesterday to mixed reviews of shoppers and merchants.

On the first day, sample packages of wine, tea and health products were being checked by the city's quality watchdog.

The law is welcomed by many consumers, who said more packaging means higher prices, but not everybody was happy.

"I think presenting food products with plain or simple packaging to my relatives or superiors gives me a feel of losing face or being mean," said a Shanghai resident surnamed Lu.

Merchants, on the other hand, while supporting the law's goals, said the timing is not the best.

It is very hard to remove all products with an over-packaging problem from shelves immediately with the Spring Festival just around the corner, said Gan Pingzhong, an official with supermarket chain NGS' quality monitoring division.

Traditionally, products with "luxurious packages" are bought and presented as gifts before and during the festival.

Some retailers called for a grace period.

The products that are undergoing checks include healthcare capsules of Shanghai Jiaoda Onlly Co, liquor made by a company affiliated with luxury brand Kweichow Moutai Co and Longjin tea of Hangzhou Yijiangnan Tea Co Ltd.

These products are suspected of over-packaging because of the amount of empty space in the packages, said bureau officials who conducted an inspection at the Zhabei outlet of RT-MART yesterday.

Also being checked were another four samples of product packaging from a local supermarket in Xuhui District of the Shanghai Carhua Supermarket Co.

Results will be announced in about a week.

The number of layers of packaging papers and the allowed ratio of empty space inside boxes are the major criteria to determine excessive packaging, according to the law.

Zhao Wei, an official with the Shanghai Institute of Measurement and Testing Technology, said packages having too much empty space is the biggest problem.

Sellers of products in Shanghai with unnecessary packaging will be ordered to suspend their sales or face a fine of up to 50,000 yuan (US$8,064).

The manufacturers, however, many of whom are outside Shanghai, are only asked to stop making the products and rectify irregularities without fine.

The new law, the first among Chinese cities, aims to trim unnecessary use of resources and reduce waste, according to the Shanghai People's Congress, the city's lawmaking body.

The law going into effect now delivers a hit to markets before the festival, Gan said, though he stressed that the measure is a good way to curb waste of paper resources and pollution.

Gan said the supermarket had already suffered losses as it had some products with excessive packaging removed from shelves during its own checks.

Gan said it is a waste since the products were already in retail process, and that it takes time to train staff members to obtain a better understanding of the law and the capability to sort out such suspected products.

The packaging law was approved in late November.

Gan called on more training and intensified notification of manufacturers outside Shanghai about the law.


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