Every year, close to one trillion plastic bags are used across the globe. This poses an environmental challenge since plastic bags are not easily biodegradable and become pollutants in rivers, oceans and alongside the road. The repercussions to this is that animals and wildlife suffer from the uncontrolled dumping of plastic bags. In an effort to reduce the effect of plastic bag pollution, countries around the world are putting measures and policies that will see a considerable decrease in the use of plastics, including a total ban on single-use plastic bags. Such countries include China, Kenya, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Taiwan and Macedonia who have completely banned the use of plastic bags.
Many governments are also imposing taxes and fees to discourage the use of lightweight plastic bags. Some European countries such as Germany, United Kingdom, Denmark, France, and Greece have enacted laws that charge customers fees for every single plastic. Certain cities have implemented a total plastic ban in the European Union, such as Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium. In Canada, the city of Montreal has banned single-use plastic beginning June 5, 2018, a trend that has been replicated in other Canadian cities as well.
Top 10 countries where single-use plastic is banned
There are about 60 countries in the world who have put in place measures for plastic bag control. From total ban to increasing taxes on plastic bags, these are the countries with the strictest mechanisms of dealing with plastic bag pollution.
Bangladesh is often touted as the first country in the world to impose a total plastic ban in 2002. This was after the country experienced a serious problem with plastic pollution in waterways and drainage systems. Between 1988 and 1998, the country was experiencing a flooding problem where close to two-thirds of the country was submerged as a result of littered plastic blocking waterways. Even then, plastic bag pollution is still a major problem in Bangladesh.
A partial ban was placed on the manufacture and importation of plastic bags in Kenya from 2007-2011 with the intent of protecting the environment. This had unexpected consequences as retailers and manufacturers threatened to pass on the extra cost to the consumer. As a result, the ban was not as effective. However, on August 28, 2017, a total ban on plastic bags was put in place in Kenya and is the harshest anywhere in the world. Offenders face a heavy fine of $38,000 or a four-year jail term. This has prompted creative solutions to the problem of plastic bag pollution.
Rwanda was among the first African countries to impose the plastic ban. It is perennially the cleanest nation on the continent with cities like Kigali among the cleanest in Africa. The first ban was in 2004, where Rwanda prohibited the use of plastic bags for shopping. In 2008, a nationwide became effective as part of the country’s 2020 sustainability goals.
The Chinese government implemented a ban on single-use plastic, by banning its use in grocery stores and shops across the country. This had a 66% reduction rate in the amount of single-use plastic. In addition to this, the government employed more than 600,000 enforcers to ensure no shops or grocery stores are using plastic bags. If found, the company would have to pay a fine of 10,000 yuan which is close to 1500 US dollars.
Second, only to the United States, Australia is one of the largest producers of plastic waste at an estimated 5 billion plastic bags per year. The Australian Capital Territory banned plastic usage in 2011 to include all polyethylene bags that are less than 35 microns thick. The government encouraged Australians to use reusable bags when shopping to help reduce the negative impact of single-use plastic.
Chile has issued a ban on the use of plastic in coastal cities, which could be up to 230 cities. This has seen a tremendous improvement by ensuring clean beaches as well as protected environments. Some of the coastal cities constitute the largest metropolitan areas, so the impact is felt quite large. A penalty of $300 is to businesses that are found distributing plastic bags.
A total ban on plastic bags was effective from 2015, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the country. In 2016, France announced a total ban on plastic items such as cutlery, cups, and plates and is expected to be a fully functional policy from 2020.
Morocco ranked high as the second-largest consumer of plastic bags in the world at an astonishing figure of 3 billion plastic bags per year. This was equivalent to 900 plastic bags per individual. In July 2016, a law was signed that banned the use of plastic including the production, importation, distribution, and sale of plastic bags.
Taiwan not only announced the ban on single-plastic use but also bans on straws, utensils, and cups made of plastic. The ban is one of the farthest-reaching bans and builds upon previous regulations of extra charges for plastic bags.
Starting July 2017, Zimbabwe passed a total ban on EPS, which is a type of plastic used in food containers and takes thousands of years to decompose.
Reactions to single-use plastic ban among different demographics
Generally, many people will have a welcoming attitude towards a plastic bag. It promises a more sustainable future that the world is looking for right now. Younger populations are more likely to feel indebted to taking care of the environment and hence will adhere to plastic-ban legislation with much ease. Over the last decade, the problem of plastic pollution was merely a small problem, with little awareness among many people. Consumer attitudes are also beginning to change, largely because of media attention on the negative impact that plastics have on the environment. This encourages individual responsibility when it comes to packaging, and reinforces the three Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Public participation in green energy solutions helps advance the cause of plastic-free environments as people are more conscious of their role in conservation. There is concrete evidence that bans influence consumer behavior where people begin taking their own bag for shopping and opt for reusable bags instead of single-use plastic bags. This receptive behavior is very welcome to protecting the environment from plastic pollution.