Asia Packaging Politics & Legislation

Shanghai Attempt to Cut Plastic Packaging is Failing

The first non-binding standards were released in Shanghai this April. It was the first time in China. The purpose was to replace plastic packaging by paper and biodegradable packaging in take-away and home delivery sector.

There are 1.65 million food delivery orders per day in Shanghai and it generates 1.2 billion discarded plastic boxes each year (45,000 tons of waste). The objective was to encourage the replacement of plastic food boxes and bags with paper bowls and bio-degradable sacks.

The standard have been drafted by Shanghai Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau and were expected to cut plastic waste from the food delivery industry by more than 75%. The standards were implemented only in a few places in Shanghai.

The results of the non-binding standards are not good. The experiment is not meeting its expectations and the results are bad. Less than half of the 1 million eco-friendly paper bowls distributed have been used by catering businesses.

Main reasons for the failure:

  • Change in mentality does not come easily.
  • Plastic containers come in more shapes than paper packaging.
  • Plastic containers are harder than paper containers.
  • The seal of paper containers is not tight and this may be a problem for liquid food.
  • Paper containers are also more expensive than those made of plastic.

Zhang Lei, deputy director of the administration’s food supervision and management department said:

“A large number of catering businesses still use plastic containers, and we feel they were not excited over the idea (of changing).”


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