China has stepped up its environmental efforts with new policies aimed at restricting the production, sale and use of single-use plastic products.
Issued by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment on Jan, 19, the directive will see non-degradable bags banned in major cities by the end of 2020 and in all cities and towns by 2022.
Fresh produce markets will be exempt from the ban until 2025.
In addition, items such as plastic straws or cutlery for foodservice as well as hotel disposables will be phased out under the ban.
Commenting on the move, Wood Mackenzie senior consultant William Liu said the regulation would impact plastic consumption and consequently the country’s petrochemical industry.
“Polyethylene consumption will be impacted as it is the main feed to produce bags and packaging films. But as plastic bags [and] straws are only one application of plastic, it will not have a major impact on the oil industry,” Liu added.
According to Liu, as the ban rolls out to more cities and substitute materials gain traction, China's polyethylene consumption will be further impacted.
China is the largest polyethylene importer in the world. The country consumed more than 33 million metric tons of polyethylene in 2019, 40 percent of it imported from producers in the Middle East and other Asian countries.
China accounted for about 12 percent of U.S. PE exports in 2018 according to Polyolefins Market Weekly, That number was expected to drop slightly in 2019 because of tariffs.
The efficiency of the directive, according to Liu, will depend on many factors, such as the development of substitute materials.
“At present, compared with materials such as paper, glass, wood and metal, plastic has many advantages in daily use, such as being lightweight, easy to process, convenient and most of all, it is price competitive," he added.