Plastic Bag Bans – World Update
Over the past couple of years, the United States has seen a startling momentum to reduce or cancel plastic bags as more Americans become aware of the environmental dangers of these packages. While the American movement is in its infancy, much of the world has already taken action.
In 2002, Bangladesh was the first country to completely ban plastic bags. The bags are largely associated with the severe floods of 1988 and 1998. Large amounts of plastic waste have clogged sewers and flooded two-thirds of the country as a result of devastating floods.
The litter of plastic bags was so bad in South Africa that the Minister of Environment and Tourism jokingly called plastic bags a national flower because so many bags adorned the trees. Free packages are now banned and all plastic bags are charged a fee of 3 cents.
Paris banned handbags in 2007, and the whole of France will follow suit in 2010. Other countries with a direct or free ban on carrying luggage include: Bhutan, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, Taiwan and zanzibar. China banned free packages last summer and estimates it will save 34 million barrels of oil a year.
Countries that tax plastic bags include Ireland, where the use of plastic bags immediately fell by 90% after the introduction of PlasTax. Ireland saves 400,000 barrels of oil annually from tax. In Germany, most stores charge between 5 and 25 cents per bag. Hong Kong proposed a 50 cent tax for 2009. Israel will add a surcharge for plastic bags if they do not contain meat, fish, poultry or other products. Sweden also taxs bags.
Spain is working on its comprehensive national waste management plan, which will include a ban in 2010.
In the UK, retailers came out on top. Many have abandoned plastic bags and encourage the use of reusable bags. IKEA and Whole Foods are two American chains that have been at the forefront of the reusable package movement.
2008 will be remembered as the year when American retailers began to regularly purchase reusable bags. Polypropylene bags, mostly non-woven, are now becoming the norm in most stores. However, people often forget about bags, which leads to the huge popularity of new bags that can be put in their pockets so that they can be stored in bags, eliminating the need for memorization.
Plastic bags are considered environmentally independent because they never completely disintegrate, often clogged, causing significant damage to wildlife, and because the $100 billion used annually in the United States is needlessly clogging up our landfills.
Surprisingly, paper bags are more environmentally friendly. The lack of air and humidity in landfills prevents proper decomposition, they require more energy for production and delivery, and they cost retailers and therefore consumers much more than the production of plastic bags.
Many Americans now understand, like many of our European and Asian neighbors, that reusable bags are the solution to the problem of plastic and paper bags.