Declaring war on the "white pollution" choking its cities, farms, and waterways, China is banning free plastic shopping bags and calling for a return to the cloth bags of old—steps largely welcomed by merchants and shoppers on Wednesday.
The measure eliminates the flimsiest bags and forces stores to charge for others, making China the latest nation to target plastic bags in a bid to cut waste and conserve resources.
Beijing residents appeared to take the ban in stride, reflecting rising environmental consciousness and concern over skyrocketing oil prices.
"If we can reduce waste and save resources, then it's good both for us and the whole world," said college student Xu Lixian, who was buying tangerines out of cardboard boxes at a sidewalk stall.
The ban takes effect June 1, barely two months before Beijing hosts the Summer Olympic Games, ahead of which it has been demolishing run-down neighborhoods and working to clear smog.
The games have added impetus to a number of policies and projects, likely boosting odds for the bag ban's implementation.
Under the new rules, businesses will be prohibited from manufacturing, selling, or using bags less than 0.025 millimeters (0.00098 inches) thick, according to the order issued by the State Council, China's Cabinet.
The council's orders constitute the highest level of administrative regulation and follow-through is carefully monitored.
More durable plastic bags still will be permitted for sale by markets and shops.
The regulation, dated December 31 and posted on a government Web site Tuesday, called for "a return to cloth bags and shopping baskets to reduce the use of plastic bags."
It also urged waste collectors to step up recycling efforts to reduce the amount of bags burned or buried. Finance authorities were told to consider tax measures to discourage plastic bag production and sale.