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May 30, 2011

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Super-thin plastic bags branded a health hazard

FLIMSY plastic bags offered free at many food markets and snack stalls are substandard and may affect people's health, according to quality watchdogs.

A large number of these bags - the thickness of which was below the national standard of 0.025 millimeters - were seized during recent spot checks by the city's quality supervisory department.

These super-thin plastic bags are usually made from cheap chemical materials and even recycled materials containing harmful additives.

The harmful substances they contain will harm people's health if they are used to hold food, experts said.

Moreover, they will cause serious environmental pollution because they are non-degradable.

Despite this, super-thin plastic bags are still preferred in food markets and snack stalls as they are cheap, almost three years after a law was brought in to curb the use of plastic bags.

However, the situation in local bookstores and pharmacies is much better. Many of these retailers have already stopped providing free plastic bags to shoppers.

The national government is considering adding these two businesses to a list designed to further limit the use of plastic bags in stricter legislation.

"We have long promoted the use of recyclable bags," said an official surnamed Zhang from an outlet of the Shanghai Book Mall on Fuzhou Road.

Zhang said all outlets had been banned from providing free plastic bags to customers since June 2008, when the law was introduced.

A Shanghai Daily investigation has discovered that most downtown bookstores adhere to the law.

Books are tied with paper tape or string by cashiers. If required, paper bags and recyclable bags are available.

On a national basis, the legislation has had less impact on retailers such as bookstores and pharmacies than supermarkets and convenience stores, which have been successful in reducing plastic bag use.

According to the latest official statistics, between 2008 and 2011 the consumption of plastic bags throughout the country was reduced by more than 24 million in major retailing areas.

This is equal to about 600,000 tons of plastics.

The initiative has helped the country save 3.6 million tons of petroleum and reduce emissions by up to 10 million tons of carbon dioxide.

The legislation will also curb the use of plastic bags in other outlets.


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