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Free bag ban flouted by city retailers

ALMOST three years after a law was brought in to curb the use of plastic bags, they are still being widely offered free of charge at many outlets in Shanghai. The Chinese Cabinet, the State Council, introduced legislation on June 1, 2008, stating that stores should no longer provide plastic bags free to shoppers. Outlets doing so could be fined 10,000 yuan(US$1,500). Officials with the Ministry of Commerce said at the weekend they are now considering banning free plastic bags in places such as restaurants and hospitals. The ministry is now canvassing public opinion. However, an investigation by Shanghai Daily has found the regulations are ignored by many stores and vendors in Shanghai - from chain brands to street-side markets. Instead of charging consumers for bags, as they are required to by the authorities, the stores happily offer free non-recyclable bags. Reporters visited a dozen food and beverage stores downtown, where takeaway plastic bags are in high demand, and found most provide them free of charge. Some stores said they used to make customers pay after the legislation was introduced, but the practice was soon dropped. Inside an outlet of a popular bakery chain on downtown Maoming Road N., free plastic bags were being given away at a speed of nearly one a minute yesterday afternoon. Management had intended to charge for the bags but the plan had not yet been introduced, said a worker, surnamed Xu. "The bags are good quality and I always take them back home to use as wet market shopping bags," said Wang Liping, a teacher who often visited the bakery "I'm very pleased that the store offers them free." At KFC, some diners said they hoped the fast-food chain would continue to offer free plastic bags because it would be inconvenient for them to pay for them. "It's hassle for me to search through my pocket for a couple of jiao coins just to pay for a plastic bag," said one diner. At a noodle shop, a fruit bar, a dessert store and other eateries along downtown Wujiang Road, plastic bags were all offe! red free . Staff said there were no plans to charge for them. And at local wet markets and vegetable stalls, thin plastic bags were free to shoppers.

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