• China has announced a phased ban on various types of single-use plastic.
  • It joins numerous other countries in introducing bans.
  • The move to a circular economy is vital to reduce plastic pollution.

The Chinese government has announced plans to restrict the production and sale of plastic, in an effort to reduce waste in major cities.

The restrictions will be phased in over the coming years. For example, plastic bags will be banned in major cities by the end of 2020 and in all towns and cities within the next 5 years.

The restaurant industry will also be affected - with consumption of single-use plastic items in towns and cities needing to be cut by 30% by 2025.

This new policy follows China's decision in 2018 to ban imports of plastic waste. The decision had major ramifications for global recycling, as China handled a large quanity of the world's waste.

A global challenge

The announcement also follows hot on the heels of bans in other countries around the world - including Kenya, Thailand and France - that have moved to reduce single-use plastic production and consumption.

And, last year, 170 countries pledged to "significantly reduce" use of plastic by 2030.

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Global plastic production has soared
Image: Our World in Data

But, plastics production has accelerated rapidly over recent years, as the chart above shows. However, in 2015 less than 20% of plastic waste was recycled - so it's clear there's still significant progress to make.

plastic recycling plastic waste environment ocean
Less than 20% of plastic waste is recycled
Image: Our World in Data

Going circular

Governments and policymakers around the world face a challenge in balancing the importance of plastics - think food safety - with protecting the planet.

Plastic

What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a collaboration between businesses, international donors, national and local governments, community groups and world-class experts seeking meaningful actions to beat plastic pollution.

It aims to show how businesses, communities and governments can redesign the global “take-make-dispose” economy as a circular one in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts.

Contact us to join the partnership.

While bans are proving popular, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation highlights the need to "rethink the way we make, use and reuse plastic" as part of its New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.

This is part of the shift from a linear to circular economy, where products - including plastic - never become waste.

plastics pollution plastic economy waste environment circular economy
Going circular
Image: Ellen MacArthur Foundation / World Economic Forum

How to save the planet is one of the key themes on the agenda at Davos this week.