China Intensifies Campaign Against Plastic Pollution

China Intensifies Campaign Against Plastic Pollution

Though experts describe the new policy as a “milestone,” they also believe encouraging the use of biodegradable plastics is equally damaging to the environment.

China plans to ban the production of certain single-use plastic items by the end of this year to curb the amount of waste clogging the country’s landfills and waterways.

According to the guideline co-published Sunday by China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the country aims to gradually limit the production, use, and sale of single-use plastic items — from plastic bags to delivery packages — while also promoting alternative means to improve the recycling rate of plastic and reduce the amount of plastic sent to landfills.

Mao Da, founder of the nonprofit group Zero Waste Beijing, sees the long-awaited guideline as a “milestone policy” to replace the previous 2008 plastic ban and set new five-year goals combatting plastic pollution. However, he added that encouraging individuals to use biodegradable plastic, rather than reducing plastic use, would only hurt the environment in the long run.

Biodegradable plastics can break down into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass through a specialized treatment process, but experts say China doesn’t have enough treatment facilities. If improperly disposed of, biodegradable plastics can damage the environment.

“Biodegradable plastics have shortcomings and should be limited in use as well,” Mao told Sixth Tone. “Replacing nonbiodegradable plastics with biodegradable ones may cause misuse and a new type of pollution, as well as increased pressure on waste-recycling systems.”

China is the world’s largest plastics producer and exporter, accounting for over one-quarter of global plastic production in 2018. However, due to high consumption and low recycling and waste-management efforts, plastic waste often ends up polluting the land and sea.

Over 88% of waste on the sea surface and ocean floor is plastic, such as plastic bags and bottles, according to a 2018 report from China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment. Another study published the year before estimated that up to 1.5 million metric tons of plastic waste from the Yangtze River is dumped into the Yellow Sea each year — the most among 10 rivers globally that together account for 90% of all plastic found in the oceans.

Authorities have now set specific timelines to minimize China’s plastic pollution.

A number of routine items — including single-use plastic straws, cotton swabs, and cosmetic products containing microbeads — as well as certain plastic soil coverings that are considered a main source of farmland soil pollution are expected to be entirely eliminated nationwide by the end of 2020.

According to the guideline, by 2025 all hotels and hostels will be banned from offering free single-use plastic items, while mail and delivery services will be prohibited from using nonbiodegradable plastic packages, tape, and single-use plastic bags. Cities will be required to ban nonbiodegradable plastic bags and aim for a 30% reduction in the consumption of single-use cutlery.

China prohibited the import of 24 types of foreign waste — including plastic and electronic waste — in 2017, and additional items were added to the list the following year. The new guideline also reinforces a blanket ban on importing any type of foreign plastic waste.

“Plastics have a close connection to chemical pollutants,” Mao said. “We use plastics indiscriminately because we think they are clean, when they actually do harm to the environment.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Eyeem/Tuchong)


7 out of 10 Filipinos favor a national single-use plastics ban, survey reveals

7 out of 10 Filipinos favor a national single-use plastics ban, survey reveals

Bells rings for a national single-use plastic ban.  Recent SWS survey says that 7 out of 10 Filipinos favor national SUP ban at all times.  This call is echoed by green groups Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, Break Free From Plastic, and Ecowaste Coalition.

MANILA, Philippines (January 21 2020) — Filipinos favor banning single-use plastics. That is according to a recent survey commissioned by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) which highlights the Filipino people’s strong support for a national ban on single-use plastics (SUPs).

The nationwide survey showed that seven out of 10 Filipinos feel that the best thing to do with SUPs is to ban their use at all times.  Topping the list of materials that should be regulated or used less nationally is sando bags (71%), followed by plastic straws and stirrers (66%), plastic labo bags (65%), styrofoam or polystyrene food containers (64%), sachets (60%), Tetra pack or doy pack for juices (59%), plastic drinking cups (56%), cutlery such as plastic spoons and forks (54%), Plastic bottles for juice (49%), and Plastic bottles for water (41%).

In addition, 6 out of 10 said they are willing to buy their food condiments in recyclable or refillable containers instead of sachets while 4 out of 10 feel that companies should find alternative materials to plastic.

“The message to political leaders and business is clear: Filipinos reject single-use plastics. By supporting a ban on SUPs, the Filipino consumer is also sending a message to the plastic industry and manufacturers that plastic pollution and throwaway systems are no longer acceptable,” said Beau Baconguis, Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) Asia Pacific Coordinator.

More than a hundred and twenty countries have already instituted regulatory measures such as bans, levies, charges, and others, aimed at reducing the production and consumption of SUPs. The most recent SUP regulations were by Bangladesh, Thailand, and China, the Indian state of Kerala and the Indonesian City of Jakarta.

Further, according to the same survey, 71% of Filipinos want to ban the use of plastic at all times while 10% feel there is a need to ask the user of plastic to pay higher.

single-use plastics ban

“The results of the survey puts into question the common excuse from the  the big companies that sachets are pro-poor,” said Froilan Grate, GAIA Philippines Executive Director.  According to the survey, those who are willing to buy their food condiments in recyclables and refillables and those who feel that plastic must be regulated or be used less nationally is highest in Class E at 73%.  “Sachets and other SUPs are not pro-poor. People buy in sachets because an alternative distribution or packaging systems are not being made available by multinational companies.”

For Patricia Nicdao, Ecowaste Coalition Policy and Advocacy Officer, the Philippines urgently needs a law that will ban single-use plastics at the national level. “We have to act now. The people have spoken. The government needs to pass a  law banning single-use plastics. We cannot afford any more excuses and delays!”, Nicdao said.

During the press briefing, GAIA also released a policy brief titled “Regulating Single-use Plastics in the Philippines: Opportunities to Move Forward” which outlines recommendations for the Philippine government in tackling the plastic pollution crisis. Among key policy recommendations are the following:

  • Pass a national ban on the production, sale, distribution, and use of sando and labo bags and other SUPs with phaseout schedule

  • Phase out sachets in favor of reuse and refill systems for product distribution within three years.

  • Establish a program that demands greater responsibility from companies manufacturing and using plastic, by determining their obligations and targets, as well as offering incentives to reduce plastic.


Despite being hailed as one of the world’s most progressive laws on waste management, the implementation of the 19-year old law R.A. 90003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2001 has suffered from a lack of political will and contradicting policies from government agencies involved in waste and resource management.

“We hope that the Philippine government seriously take the public sentiment on single-use plastics. As shown in the results of the survey, plastic pollution is an important issue for Filipino consumers. They are willing to sacrifice convenience and are already looking into refill options and other alternative systems. They expect our government leaders to address the plastic pollution crisis and go beyond lip service by banning single-use plastics in the whole country, ” Grate said. //ends


Notes to Editors:

  1. Link to GAIA’s policy brief here:


Notes from the SWS survey:

  • The survey conducted from September 27 to 30 last year used face-to-face interviews of 1,800 adults nationwide.

  • When asked about what the companies that are responsible for single-use plastics (SUPs) should do in order to help lessen plastic waste in the Philippines, plurality (41%) of adult Filipinos answered use/find alternative materials to plastic.  Other responses are: buy/collect plastics and recycle (23%), ban/stop selling/production of plastics (14%), reduce the usage/selling/production of plastics (12%), and conduct seminars/observe proper waste management (4%). Five percent comprised other responses and 9% say none/no answer/don’t know/refused.

  • The Third Quarter 2019 Social Weather Stations, asked about the products that one would be willing to buy in recyclable or refillable container instead of sachet. The top three responses are: food condiments such as oil, soy sauce, vinegar, etc. (68%), personal care products like shampoo and conditioner (42%), and household cleaning products like dishwashing liquid,  liquid detergent, fabric conditioner (42%). Other responses are: powdered drinks like coffee and juices (29%) and household cleaning products like powder laundry detergents (27%). Meanwhile, 0.1% say none and 0.4% had no answer.

  • When asked about the materials that should be regulated or be used less nationally, majority (71%) of adult Filipinos answered plastic sando bags.  Other responses are: Styrofoam or polystyrene food containers (56%), plastic ”labo” bags (54%), plastic straws and stirrers (52%), sachets (50%), plastic drinking cups (43%), cutlery such as plastic spoon and forks (41%), tetra pack or doy pack for juice (37%), plastic bottles for water (32%), and plastic bottles for juice (32%). One percent say none/no answer/don’t know/refused.


About GAIA – Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration.

Malaysia sends back 3,737 metric tonnes of plastic waste, to repatriate more this year

Malaysia sends back 3,737 metric tonnes of plastic waste, to repatriate more this year

SEBERANG PERAI, Jan 20 — Malaysia sent 150 containers of plastic waste weighing about 3,737 metric tonnes back to its 13 countries of origin since the third quarter of 2019, said Minister for Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin.

She said France and United Kingdom have been co-operative in the process; out of the 150 containers, 43 were sent back to France and 42 to United Kingdom.

“The repatriation of the containers did not incur any costs on us which is unprecedented as the importers and shipping companies paid for the costs,” she said during a press conference after visiting the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT) at Penang Port here.

The remaining containers were sent back to the United States (US) (17 containers), Canada (11), Spain (10), Hong Kong (9), Japan (5), Singapore (4), Portugal (3), China (3), Bangladesh (1), Sri Lanka (1) and Lithuania (1).

Yeo said there are 110 more containers, from all three ports in Klang, Penang and Sarawak, that will be sent back to nine countries by the middle of this year.

“A total 60 out of the 110 are from the US and we are working closely with the US government and agencies on the process,” she said.

The remaining containers to be sent back are to Canada (15 containers), Japan (14), UK (9), Belgium (8), Mexico (1), Hungary (1), France (1) and Jamaica (1).

She said each container weighs about 20 metric tonnes so the estimated weight of the plastic waste to be sent back are around 2,200 metric tonnes.

Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeoh Bee Yin (centre) speaks during a press conference after a site visit to the North Butterworth Container Terminal in Penang January 20, 2020.

“We will continue to take enforcement action to stop the import of plastic waste and close down illegal plastic waste factories here, we want the world to know that Malaysia is not a plastic waste dumping ground,” she said.She said a new national action plan on illegal plastic waste importation will be launched next month so that all agencies involved will have proper enforcement procedures to follow.She said the action plan will smoothen procedures for agencies such as Department of Environment, Customs Department, National Solid Waste Management Department, port authorities and local governments.

On enforcement action against illegal plastic waste factories in the country, Yeo said last year, joint operations by the police, customs, local councils, immigration and other agencies were held at a total 393 factories in the country.

“A total 218 illegal plastic waste factories were closed down and enforcement actions will continue to close down more illegal factories,” she said.

She said even if the factories were to reopen in a different state, the enforcement team will close it down again.

“We will act on any reports of these factories operating illegally in any states in Malaysia so we call on the public to be our eyes to report to us,” she said.

150 containers of plastic waste shipped back, 110 more to follow

150 containers of plastic waste shipped back, 110 more to follow

BUTTERWORTH: Malaysia has managed to send back 150 containers of unwanted plastic waste to their countries of origin, with France, the United Kingdom and the United States heading the list.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said this was “unprecedented” as the government did not fork out a single sen, with importers and shipping lines bearing the costs.

“It is not about money but dignity. We are not supposed to pay them to send it back. We do not want to pay a single sen. We are not the world’s rubbish dump,” she told reporters at Butterworth port today.

Yeo said the 150 containers, seized at Port Klang and ports in Penang and Sarawak, contained a total of 3,737 metric tonnes of waste.

Their countries of origin also included Canada, Spain, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Portugal, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Lithuania.

She said another 110 containers, including 60 from the US, 15 from Canada and 14 from Japan, were waiting to be shipped back. The other containers came from the UK, Belgium, Mexico, Hungary, France and Jamaica.

She said the government was in touch with US agencies to help in the repatriation of the containers.

Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries have become a hub for plastic waste recycling after China decided to stop all plastic imports.

After a massive plastic dumping ground was found in Selangor two years ago, the importers moved up north, with Kedah being a prime choice for illegal recycling factories.

The illegal factories have reportedly spewed toxic air, especially in Sungai Petani, but environment authorities there have denied that the air is polluted.

‘Illegal factories will be closed, again and again’

Yeo said that when China banned the import of plastic waste in 2018, many countries were unaware of how to handle containers being diverted elsewhere.

She said Malaysia has since come up with a comprehensive plan to strengthen enforcement through a special task force involving related agencies.

This, she said, led to a drop in illegal plastic waste being imported nationwide, although it has not been “wiped out” completely.

Yeo said the key measure to curb unwanted plastic imports was to stop them at the source – the ports of entry.

At the same time, she said, the Department of Environment (DoE) would continue to move in on illegal factories.

“We will continue to close (the illegal factories) again and again. We will see who is more persistent,” she said.

Yeo also said the National Action Plan for Importation of Plastic Wastes will be launched next month as a guide for enforcement agencies.

France agrees to take back 43 illegal waste containers from Malaysia

Reuters reported from Paris that Malaysia had shipped 43 illegal plastic waste containers back to France as part of a crackdown on the illegal trafficking of waste.

A joint statement by the two governments said the company responsible for shipping the containers has been identified and fined 192,000 euros (RM862,742). It did not identify the company.


Article originally posted in Free Malaysia Today.

Plastic Bags Ban in Jakarta: Pro-Environment Policy Awakens Community Optimism Towards Earth-Saving Efforts

Plastic Bags Ban in Jakarta: Pro-Environment Policy Awakens Community Optimism Towards Earth-Saving Efforts

Jakarta (January 10, 2020). The Governor of Jakarta Province, Anies Baswedan, has just issued Regulation of the Governor of Jakarta Province Number 142 of 2019 concerning Obligations to Use Environmentally Friendly Shopping Bags at Shopping Centers, Supermarkets, and Traditional Markets. The long-awaited regulation has been welcomed by the people of Jakarta Province, as news of its preparation had been circulating for more than one year. This regulation adds to the long list of provinces and regencies/cities in Indonesia that have banned the use of plastic bags, beginning with the city of Banjarmasin in 2016 followed by other regions, including the city of Bandung and the province of Bali which have also issued a similar regulation.

“The movement to phase out plastic bags that began almost 10 years ago in Indonesia is starting to show tangible, at-scale results. We are thrilled that early successes with a plastic bag charge trial in 2016 showed retailers and cities that it is possible to reduce dependency on single use plastics, and that snowball is still rolling thanks to a persistent civil society movement” said Tiza Mafira, as Executive Director of the Indonesian Movement for Plastic Bags Diet (GIDKP). “We at GIDKP appreciate the concrete steps taken by the DKI Jakarta Provincial Government to ban plastic bags, one of the worst culprits of plastic pollution in Indonesia’s rivers. We hope that these regulations are strictly enforced and the people of Jakarta pitch in to making it a success,” added Tiza.

A similar expression was also conveyed by D. Yuvlinda Susanta, Head of Corporate Communications and Sustainability of PT Lion Super Indo, “We greatly appreciate the substance of the regulation that accommodates the application of incentives and sanctions. We also appreciate that this regulation applies equally to supermarkets and public markets. ” Super Indo is one of the supermarkets that has more than 10 years of implementing plastic bag reduction efforts and is the only supermarket that has continued to implement non-free plastic bags since it was tested nationally in 2016.

Appreciation was also conveyed by one of the leading beauty and body care product stores, The Body Shop Indonesia, which has also been campaigning for the reduction of plastic bags since 2013. “The Body Shop and I feel happy and appreciate that the Jakarta Province finally realized the dangers of plastic bags for our environment and took action. Since 2013, The Body Shop and its customers have always supported various movements and petitions for the #Pay4Plastic campaign, which led to the adoption of a plastic bag charge trial in 2016, as well as Jakarta’s efforts to mandate the use environmentally friendly shopping bags since early 2019. Congratulations for Jakarta, which has finally officially banned the use of plastic bags. Hopefully in the future there will be a policy to ban other disposable plastics such as plastic straws and styrofoam, which have been banned in Bali. We hope the same for other regions in Indonesia,” said Suzy Hutomo, Executive Chairwoman of The Body Shop Indonesia.

A similar tone was conveyed by fellow civil society groups who are members of the Alliance  of Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI). AZWI leads a campaign in efforts to reduce single use plastic waste, namely “Ban the Big 5”, which consists of plastic bags, polystyrene foam, straws, sachets, and microbeads.

“Nexus3 welcomes the new regulations issued by the Jakarta Governor regarding the ban on disposable plastic bags.  This regulation will help reduce the release of toxic additives in plastics into the environment. Let’s watch together and monitor the implementation!”, said Yuyun Ismawati Drwiega, Senior Advisor of the Nexus3 Foundation.

“Based on data on brand audits conducted by Greenpeace in Indonesia in 2019, plastic bags are one of the most common types of waste with a finding of 1,503 items or 11% of the total waste being audited. In other words, the ban on plastic bags has indeed been urged to be implemented so that it can reduce the waste production that we produce,” said Muharram Atha Rasyadi, Urban Campaigner Greenpeace Indonesia.

“Only about 20-30% of urban solid waste cannot be recycled and must be transported to landfills. If this policy is accompanied by the application of sorting and recycling of organic and inorganic waste, only a small amount of waste remains to be sent to the landfill site. Thus, the Jakarta Province can soon be free of dependence on landfill, and will not need expensive and polluting incinerators,” said David Sutasurya, Executive Director of YPBB Bandung.

The impetus for the issuance of regulations on the prohibition of disposable plastics, especially plastic bags in Jakarta Province, is also one of the demands echoed by the Plastic Free Parade in July 2019, a peaceful march attended by thousands and supported by 49 civil society groups including GIDKP, Greenpeace Indonesia, Indorelawan, Divers Clean Action, Pandu Laut, Pulau Plastik and others. Initiators of the march expressed appreciation for the new regulation.

“We see the enthusiasm of volunteers increasing on environmental issues, especially the problem of plastic waste. Several times we collaborated with environmental organizations to make various activities on the issue, ranging from workshops, discussions to campaigns on social media. As a result, many young people want to take the role to be involved. This means they have been moved and want to learn more about plastic issues,” said Marsya Nurmaranti, Executive Director of Indorelawan.

“The majority of inorganic waste found from our research in coastal areas in 2019 is disposable plastic waste that is still difficult to recycle. The disposable plastic waste referred to is plastic bags, polystyrene foam, sachets, straws and bottled drinking water. Waste that pollutes the ocean can come from human activities in urban areas, where the waste is thrown away or thrown into the river and ends up at sea. This regulation should have a positive impact. If we close the source of waste, it is hoped that it will reduce the leakage of waste into our oceans,” said Swietenia Puspa Lestari, Executive Director of DIvers Clean Action.

“The ban on plastic bags in Jakarta is a big step in creating a cleaner and healthier Jakarta Province. The snowball effect of this kind of action will drive a positive impact, not only on the problem of municipal waste disposal, but also in providing better air and water quality. A cleaner Jakarta means healthier Jakartans and creates a positive impact on lifestyle and economy,” said Wijaya Surya, the initiator of the Jakarta Beach Clean Up Community.

The scope of this regulation is the obligation to use environmentally friendly shopping bags that have adequate thickness and are designed to be reused. Retailers must stop providing single-use plastic shopping bags, and the use of single-use plastic packaging for food  wrapping should be limited. This regulation applies to supermarkets, shop owners in shopping malls and traditional markets. Incentives will be given to those who perform well in complying with regulations and sanctions for those who do not comply.

Support from various civil society and business sectors above are a strong evidence that enforcement of regulations prohibiting plastic bags in Jakarta Province can be carried out for the creation of an environment free from plastic pollution. It is expected that this regulation will contribute to achieving the national target of 30% waste reduction by 2025 and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030.

Contact Persons:
Rahyang Nusantara – National Coordinator of Indonesia Plastic Bag Diet Movement
+628122096791 –

A failure to face the climate emergency

A failure to face the climate emergency

2019 saw intensifying climate chaos and mobilization for decisive action. Days before COP25 was due to start in Madrid under Chile’s presidency, the UN Environment Programme announced that countries had to cut their global greenhouse gas emissions by 7.6% every year until 2030 to get on track for the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement – cuts that are five times deeper than what countries have already committed to in their Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs). Despite these high stakes, and as 2019 drew to a close, COP25 ended in failure.

As countries gathered to negotiate the Paris Agreement rules, rich industrialized countries continued to deny compensation to countries already hard-hit by climate change, and attempted to escape their responsibility by negotiating additional loopholes, while no deal was found on long-term climate finance. The USA, which is due to exit the Paris Agreement next year, once more distinguished itself by focusing on shielding polluters from accountability and obstructing progress. Chile had promised a “Blue COP” but the recognition of the importance of ocean and coastal areas was limited to attempts to monetize “blue carbon” sequestered in marine ecosystems in lieu of truly protecting them. 

If no progress was made, some damage was avoided with the lack of consensus on new rules for carbon markets (Article 6 of the Paris Agreement). In principle, carbon markets allow wealthy nations to buy emissions reductions from poorer countries to count toward their own targets. In practice, they are a shell game that allow countries to increase emissions while claiming to reduce them, all the while lining the pockets of financial services companies. The issue will come up again at COP26 in Glasgow next year.

On 6 December, half a million protesters took to the streets in Madrid, matched by a march in Santiago. Activists protested peacefully inside COP25 on several occasions, manifesting their dissatisfaction with the negotiations, which they repeated during the closing statements from indigenous peoples, women, NGOs and youth. 

The plastics-climate connection

Plastic pollution is one of many symptoms of the intrinsic unsustainability of the fossil fuels and petrochemicals complex at the root of the climate emergency. Plastics harm the climate at every stage of their lifecycle, particularly when they are burnt as waste, releasing considerable carbon emissions. Meanwhile, staggering investments into plastics infrastructure are paving the way for a dramatic increase in production by 2050. Plastics could account for 20% of global oil consumption by then.

Yet, the plastics-climate connection was not addressed in COP negotiations. Emissions from the waste sector are poorly captured in most countries’ national climate plans (known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs). Nevertheless, the dangerously-high carbon emissions from plastic waste incineration in its diverse forms (including pyrolysis, gasification, “plastic-to-fuel”) are well documented.

Plastics also remained a peripheral issue in official side events in Madrid, meagre progress from previous COPs where the issue was absent altogether. Some expert speakers acknowledged the climate impacts of plastic and other waste incineration, while others stressed the importance of plastics reduction and reuse within a circular economy. Meanwhile, corporate spokespeople for major plastic pollution offenders including Coca-Cola continued to hide their responsibility for growing volumes of single-use plastics in our economies behind overstated recyclability claims and false solutions such as bio-based plastics

In contrast, at the Social Summit (Cumbre Social) in Madrid, which ran in parallel to COP25, discussions and exhibits tackled the plastics-climate nexus from a variety of angles, including climate implications of its exponential production and the role of plastics reduction, deposit-return systems and zero waste systems and the impact of plastic waste incineration on the livelihoods of waste-pickers and informal recyclers.

“No hay COP, sí hay Cumbre”

While COP25 was moved to Madrid, Spain after unprecedented popular protests erupted in Chile that met with violent repression and other human rights violations by the Chilean authorities, activists and civil society organizations took part in a Peoples’ Summit (Cumbre de los Pueblos) in Santiago from 2 to 7 December. Over 1500 participants shared experiences and to strengthen global solidarity and local action through over 40 town halls, panel discussions and workshops across three spaces including the People’s Summit itself, the Women’s Tent and the Peace Village. GAIA took part and organized activities with representatives from its member organizations, including informal recyclers, from Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

The Peoples’ Summit’s final declaration emphasized the rights of nature and of all living beings that sustain the Earth, exposed waste incineration as a false solution, and highlighted the importance of zero waste systems at the community level.


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