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China Issues Final Rules on Paid Use of Plastic Shopping Bags

Three government departments have unveiled the final version of a regulation on the distribution of paid plastic shopping bags in retail outlets, which takes effect on June 1, officials said on Friday.

The regulation was jointly released by the Commerce Ministry, the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

As of June 1, retailers could be fined up to 10,000 yuan (about US$1,433) for providing shoppers with free plastic bags. The regulation states that retailers can set their own prices for plastic bags, but the prices can't be below cost.

Under the regulation, plastic shopping bags used in retail facilities must meet national standards. Markets face fines of up to 20,000 yuan if they fail to buy the bags from legally-incorporated producers, wholesalers or importers, obtain related certificates or set up accounts for checks.

The regulation also stipulates that most retailers must list the number and prices of shopping bags separately on customer receipts.

The regulation does not apply to plastic packaging for the hygiene and safety of products such as food and cooked food.

The regulation also encourages retailers to make it easy for customers to use their own bags or baskets and to provide approved substitutes.

The three departments said the regulation was mainly aimed at protecting the environment.

"White pollution" has become a growing concern for the government as Chinese consumers have become accustomed to carrying their purchases in free plastic bags, which retailers began to offer more than a decade ago.

The campaign against plastic bags led to the closure of the country's largest plastic bag maker based in central Henan Province in mid-January. The factory previously had an annual output of 250,000 tons or 2.2 billion yuan in value.

(Xinhua News Agency May 16, 2008)

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