Who would have thought that the material of “thousand uses” — plastic — would become such a menace to the world that people would think about ways to get rid of it? Plastic is detrimental to the environment and has contributed to climate change issues. Many countries are working to limit plastic use and production to protect the environment and the natural habitat, especially marine life.
The infographic shows the list of countries that have banned plastic bags.
Let’s learn why plastic is such a menace, specifically single-use plastic, and further explore the list of countries that have banned plastic bags.
Why Is Plastic a Nuisance?
Plastic bags have become a menace that has vastly contributed to environmental deterioration. Despite its uses, plastic has contributed to global warming and climate change due to excessive dependence on this material.
Plastic is a staple for everything today because it is highly versatile material. The problem with plastic is that it is non-biodegradable and not easily recyclable. It has to do with the chemical composition of plastic, as it is not organic and has polyethylene terephthalate, which microorganisms cannot break.
So, plastic does not decompose and stays in the environment even after thousand years. Generally, it is dumped into landfills or in nature. So it ends up in the waters, thus polluting the rivers and oceans and impacting marine life. Moreover, burning plastic in incinerators releases harmful substances into the environment. Likewise, plastics are not highly recyclable.
Seeing the rising global warming crises, environmental advocates have pushed the need to limit the use of plastic and resort to environment-friendly alternatives. Single-use plastics are of the utmost concern, like straws, cups, low-density polythene plastic bags, etc., as they have limited uses and end up disposed of in the environment.
So, many countries have been working to phase out the use of plastic and resort to alternatives. There are many countries that have banned the use of plastic bags, while some have placed a partial ban on one or a few cities or states. The aim is to slowly phase out plastic and create a plastic-free world.
Let’s talk about a few countries that have banned plastic bags.
Countries That Have Banned Plastic Bags
As of 2022, more than 90 countries have imposed a complete ban or partial ban on plastic bags. Some have an absolute ban, like Bangladesh, Kenya, Rwanda, and others, while, others, like Denmark, have imposed prices on each plastic carrier bag.
Let’s discuss a few countries that have banned plastic bags.
In 2002, Bangladesh was the first country to ever put a ban on plastic bags amid the monsoon devastations caused by the polythene bags waste choking the drainage system. Despite being the pioneer, Bangladesh has failed to successfully implement the ban. Plastic bags are still illegally produced and consumed. Similarly, the government has failed to prevent the use of plastic bags in supermarkets, shopping malls, and other places.
Kenya has the most stringent policy against plastic bags in the world. The country imposed a ban on plastic bags in 2017. Now, anyone (manufacturer, seller, buyer, or even importer) found using plastic bags will have to pay a fine of up to $40,000 or imprisonment for up to 4 years. The plan has fetched good results. The country has seen a substantial drop in the use of plastic bags in many supermarkets and shops.
Thailand has banned plastic bags since 2020 to protect precious marine life. The plan included slowly phasing out the plastic carrier bags starting from the supermarkets in the first phase. The ban is so strict now that it inspired shoppers to use interesting household items to carry their groceries.
The USA does not have a countrywide ban on plastic bags. However, many states have officially banned the use of single-use plastic bags within their regions. There are currently 8 states where single-use plastic bags are banned. They include:California (2014), Hawaii (2011-13), New York (2020), Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, and Vermont.
The ban in most of these states is generally on single-use plastic bags in selective places like retail stores or grocery stores. In some states, retailers can supply plastic bags if they can ensure they collect and recycle these plastic bags.
Rwanda is one of the African countries that have banned plastic with a strict prohibition on the sale, manufacture, use, and import of plastic bags. Any person who breaches this law must pay a fine up to $60 or in extreme cases, will be booked in prison. Plastic bags block the sewage and drainage system, which has led to flood devastations in the country.
Nigeria is another one from Africa with a strict ban on plastic bags. The legislation against plastic bags has been in action since 2019. Any person found guilty will have to pay a fine of up to $1,290 or even imprisonment for up to 3 years. Any organization guilty of using plastic bags will have to pay a fine of up to $12,906.
This African country started the ban on plastic bags from its capital city and now has a countrywide ban on plastic bags since 2004. Today people in Eritrea use cloth, nylon, or even straw bags instead of plastic bags. The idea is to safeguard the wildlife and marine life in the country, which can perish if we continue to disrupt the environment.
South Australia (2009), Australian Capital Territory (2011), Tasmania (2013), and the Northern Territory (2011) have banned the use of single-use plastic bags. Meanwhile, Queensland, Victoria, and Western Australia later joined this movement of eradicating single-use plastic bags and other plastic items from their regions.
12 Caribbean countries have banned the use and import of single-use plastic and styrofoam/polystyrene bags. These include: Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Belize, Barbados, Guyana, Dominica, St. Eustatius, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Bahamas. Plastic waste poses considerable threats to the underwater ecosystem and exotic marine life in these beautiful island nations.
Italy is the first EU country to ban plastic bags and resort to plastic alternatives like biodegradable plastics or paper and cloth bags. The ban went into effect in 2011. At the time, Italian stores consumed yearly 20 billion plastic bags.
Denmark has implemented an outright ban on lightweight plastic carrier bags (used in fruits and vegetable markets). To further discourage consumers from using plastic bags, the country has put a price on each plastic bag. Every consumer has to pay a minimum of EUR 0.54 for each plastic bag. In Denmark, plastic waste dumps in incinerators, which is the major contributor to environmental pollution.
In 2018, Chile became the first country to ban plastic bags in the Latin American region. Chile gradually phased out the consumption of plastic bags. Since the ban, around 5 billion plastic bags have been avoided in the country.
The Final Words
Saving the planet from the negative impacts of non-recyclable plastics, especially single-use plastic, is the need of the hour. The effects of global warming are more apparent today than they were before. The earth’s temperature is rising, ice is melting, wildfires are more frequent and savage than before, and droughts are longer. It is just the beginning.
Recycling and resorting to eco-friendly alternatives to plastic is imperative to save our planet from environmental degradation and its negative consequences. Legislatures are formed against plastic consumption. It is time to practically implement these laws and take the initiative for a better future.