David Biello reports on the Scientific American:
Thin plastic bags are used for everything in China and the Chinese use up to three billion of them a day–an environmentally costly habit picked up by shopkeepers and consumers in the late 1980s for convenience over traditional cloth bags. Fruit mongers weigh produce in them, tailors stuff shirts into them, even street food vendors plunk their piping hot wares directly into see-through plastic bags that do nothing to protect one’s hands from being burned or coated in hot grease. They even have a special name for the plastic bags found blowing, hanging and floating everywhere from trees to rivers: bai si wu le, or “white pollution,” for the bags’ most common color.
Yet, the Chinese government is set to ban the manufacture and force shopkeepers to charge for the distribution of bags thinner than .025 millimeters thick as of June 1—and no one seems prepared. “I don’t know what we’ll do,” Zhang Gui Lin, a tailor at Shanghai’s famous fabric market, tells me through a translator. “I guess our shopping complex will figure it out and tell us what to buy to use as bags.”