A couple of months ago the government announced that plastic bags would be banned starting June 1 this year. I was a bit skeptical when I first read it; often this kind of new rules are announced but in the end many of them do not get implemented. But in this case it looks like it was not just an announcement, but something that is actually enforced and it even seems to work. I am quite happy with this, because everywhere you would get plastic bags to put your goods in. Even if I would buy just a bag of potato chips at the Lawsons in the basement of my apartment, I would get a plastic bag for it (and sometimes two). I normally refused them, but most people did not.
It is not a total ban, however. You can still get a plastic bag, but you now have to pay for it (the price ranges from about RMB 0.1 to RMB 1). This stops most people from using plastic bags for their groceries, and it certainly stops them from using two bags instead of one. Most stores seem to follow the rules, even at Lawson’s you are now requested to pay, even thought that was the store where I got most of my bags from before. At Mister Donut you get a paper box or paper bag for your donuts, and if you want a plastic bag you have to purchase it. And even at IKEA you don’t get the ubiquitous yellow bags anymore, but you need to buy a big blue bag (not sure if that one’s environmental-friendly, and because of it’s awkward shape it’s hard to re-use). Paul’s bakeries in Shanghai now charge RMB 1 for a plastic bag, but donate the money to charity. The only free bags I still get are at the DVD shop. I guess those shops are illegal anyway, so they might as well break another law. And at cheap take-away restaurants they still put the boxed lunches or left-overs in plastic bags. Let’s see how long that lasts.