No more plastic bags, no more jobs

Live, from central China, Al Jazeera's Tony Cheng provides a short refresher course in environmental economics

By Andrew Leonard
Published April 1, 2008 6:29PM (UTC)
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In January, China banned free handouts of ultra-thin plastic bags at supermarkets and other retail outlets. One result: the closing of China's largest plastic bag factory in Hunan, which Al Jazeera correspondent Tony Cheng says produced a "quarter of a million tons of plastic bags every year" and employed 20,000 workers.

"The people of this village lost their farmland when the plastic bag factory opened up just down the road, but that was alright because they were promised a livelihood, now they've lost even that, and they have nothing, and all in the name of environmental protection. It's the dilemma China faces, if it protects the environment, it damages the economy, and for a developing nation, it's a big risk to take."


For a barely three minute encapsulation of a very big challenge, you could do a lot worse than the news clip embedded below. But to be honest, How the World Works was more taken by the correspondent's sign-off than anything else -- "Tony Cheng, Al Jazeera, Hunan, Central China." Sporting a posh English accent, a Chinese surname, and an Arab employer -- it's hard to get more global than that.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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China Environment Globalization How The World Works