Old clothes get new life amid China’s green drive

February 26th, 2008 - 9:34 am ICT by admin  

Xinhua
Beijing, Feb 26 (Xinhua) Sixty-year-old Yu Xiuqin in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao always gets the attention of other shoppers and many of them laugh at her. Yu totes a large bag made of worn-out blue jeans, which she uses instead of taking free plastic bags from retailers. Last month, the authorities in the eastern coastal Chinese city launched a campaign to encourage citizens to design environmentally friendly shopping bags. It occurred to Yu, a retired textile worker, that old clothes would do the trick.

“A pair of trouser legs can make a bag, and the rest of the material can make handles,” Yu said. “It’s much easier to make a skirt into a shopping bag. What’s more, a skirt bag looks more cute with laces.”

“Worn-out jeans are still strong and durable, and it’s a great pity to throw them away,” she added.

The central government has ordered a ban on the production, sale and use of ultra-thin bags (defined as less than 0.025 mm thick) from June 1. Further, supermarkets and shops will be banned from giving free plastic bags to customers from that date.

“Our country consumes a large amount of plastic bags. While convenient for consumers, the bags also lead to a severe waste of resources and cause environmental pollution because of their excessive use and low rate of recycling,” said a government circular. “The ultra-thin bags are the main source of ‘white pollution’ as they can easily get broken and end up as litter.”

Yu recalled that people brought fabric bags of their own while going shopping more than two decades ago.

“Look at the situation now. The ‘white pollution’ of plastic bags can be seen almost everywhere - in the streets, on wire poles and in drains, especially on windy days,” she said.

China’s ban on plastic bags, a move to protect the environment and save resources, has won applause worldwide. But Yu thinks that Chinese shoppers have mixed feelings about it.

“People are still unaccustomed to carrying shopping bags themselves, especially bags made of old clothes,” she said. “Sometimes, other shoppers will laugh at my jeans bag.”

Still, Yu has made more than a dozen bags from recycled clothes and given most of them to her neighbours, some of whom use them while shopping.

“I don’t mind how other people look at my jeans bag. They will accept it eventually,” she said.

She added that she would not like to see “white pollution” in Chinese cities, especially in Qingdao, where the sailing competition of the 29th Olympic Games will be held from Aug 9-23.

China has achieved outstanding progress in economic development since 1978 when the country initiated the policy of reform and opening up, but at the cost of the environment, energy and resources.

Some major pollution incidents have left bitter memories for Chinese, such as chemical pollution of the Songhua River in northeast China in November 2005 and the blue-green algae outbreak on the Taihu Lake in east China last May.

Both incidents meant days of water cuts for millions of residents.

Three decades on, China has realized that economic growth cannot be achieved at the cost of the environment and is acting to address the issue.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) initiated the concept of “Scientific Outlook on Development” in 2002, when the 16th CPC National Congress was held. The concept stresses harmony between man and nature, economic growth and environmental protection.

The country has been working to close small-capacity power plants to reduce energy intensity by 20 percent and pollutants by 10 percent during the 2006-2010 period. Many local officials have been warned of demotion or dismissal if they fail to meet the goal.

“If you cannot fulfil your task, then go away (from your position). For those making false statements, they will be punished without leniency,” Jiang Daming, governor of east China’s Shandong province, told a conference of local pollution-control officials and business leaders.

At the 17th CPC national congress last October, President Hu Jintao vowed to promote a “conservation culture” in a keynote political report, by “forming an energy-and resource-efficient and environment-friendly structure of industries, pattern of growth and mode of consumption.”

Hu, who is also general secretary of the CPC central committee, pledged, “Awareness of conservation will be firmly established in the whole of society.”

“Yu Xiuqin is just a showcase of the ‘conservation culture’ going into the minds of the Chinese public,” said Wang Yong, the deputy director of the Sailing Committee (Qingdao) of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games (BOCOG), one of the organizers of the Qingdao campaign to encourage citizens to design shopping bags themselves.

“China has promised a ‘Green Olympics’, which includes not only a green city, clean sea and less noise, but also cultural and spiritual things,” Wang said. “In this way, the Green Olympics is in accordance with the conservation culture in nature.”

“Both concepts call on people to adopt a green and healthy lifestyle and always think about how to protect the environment,” he added.
Xinhua

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