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China takes on straws in its combat against plastic

(People's Daily Overseas New Media)    16:02, January 17, 2019

You might not think much about the plastic straw in your mouth when you take a sip from your drink cup on your way to the cinema or at lunch, but these small pieces of plastic can have a large effect on the natural environment.

Amid the nationwide call to reduce plastic product usage to the protect environment, restaurants in Beijing and Hong Kong are now taking action by not providing plastic straws.

In Hong Kong’s Café de Coral, a fast food restaurant chain that serves both Chinese and Western foods at a budget price, has started to encourage its customers to bring their own tableware in lieu of plastic straws. The new policy took effect on the first day of 2019 in 164 locations.

Fairwood, another popular restaurant in Hong Kong, stopped providing plastic straws in November 2018. “Most customers understand why and some even praise us being environmentally friendly,” said Li Yuxia, a cashier at Fairwood.

In Beijing, close to a dozen McDonald’s restaurants have stopped providing plastic straws since last November. The move is popular with many people but not everyone is happy.

“Customers want to drink with straws and eat noodles with eating utensils. If these things aren’t provided, it’ll cause dissatisfaction among some customers,” said Yu Xuerong, executive president of the Catering Industry Association of Jiangsu province.

Huang Wei, an associate professor at the School of Energy and Environment at Southeast University, explained that straws are mainly made of polypropylene, which has outstanding resistance to chemicals, which means it takes years for plastic straws to degrade.

The move by the two Chinese cities comes amid the nation’s call to reduce the usage of plastic products, including plastic bags.

Plastic products were introduced into the everyday life of Chinese people amid the reform and opening-up, which brought with it economic boom. The traditional shopping baskets and bags were then gradually replaced by plastic bags, which are cheaper and more convenient for both sellers and customers.

The number of plastic bags alone skyrocketed to 3 billion in 2017, including 1 billion plastic bags used for grocery shopping, New Weekly magazine reported. The same year, China issued the nation’s first-ever restriction on plastic bag usage, banning sales and production of plastic bags thinner than 0.025mm and forbidding all retailers from offering free plastic bags.

As citizens grew increasingly aware of environmental protection, more and more people not only started avoiding plastic bags usage, but also did things to reduce other plastic products, especially the usage of plastic tableware.

Although the promotion of degradable tableware is still steadily advancing, the current action of restricting straws has not been carried out in most places, Yu noted.

The biggest obstacle is that there is no mass production of materials that can completely replace plastic straws, as it is hard to make something that is high quality and cheap with the same resistance qualities.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Jiang Jie, Bianji)

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