A legal expert said China should strengthen its regulation on the use of plastic bags.
According to a survey conducted by China Youth Daily last week, 86.4 percent of the 2,007 people interviewed called for further restrictions on plastic bags.
An order went into effect in 2008, aiming to reduce "white pollution." It banned the offering of free plastic bags in supermarkets and farmers' markets.
The order was successful at first, with many customers bringing their own shopping bags instead of purchasing from vendors, said Zhang Hongyan, a supermarket employee in Beijing.
However, this initial success has declined in recent years. Some shops have continued to offer plastic bags for free due to lax management. Increasing incomes have also allowed people to afford the extra cost of plastic bags, said Liu Junhai, a law professor at Renmin University of China.
"A few cents is not significant for some young consumers, so they would rather purchase plastic bags due to convenience," Zhang added. Plastic bags are most frequently used in supermarkets, farmers' markets, and by street hawkers, according to the survey.
"The limitation order intends to eradicate the indiscriminate use of plastic bags. However, the bags are still being produced, sold, and used, and producers continue to benefit," Liu said.
More than 60 percent of those interviewed blamed insufficient government regulation for the noneffectiveness of the plastic limitation order.
Liu proposed the government transform the "plastic limitation" into a "plastic ban." Recyclable cloth and paper bags should replace plastic ones so that a green business model including "green manufacturing," "green selling," and "green consuming" can be achieved.
A total of 71.6 percent of those interviewed said consumers are not environmentally aware, and nearly 40 percent said environmental education should be strengthened.