The International Response To Plastic Bags

by Charles Bloom - Date: 2010-09-19 - Word Count: 498 Share This!

Americans overwhelmingly choose plastic. Per year they use around 90 million plastic versus 5 billion paper bags. Most people probably don't think twice about choosing plastic. Then they go home and shove them under their sink, to join the many others shoved underneath there from before.

Several stores now have bag recycling containers in front of their doors, so that people can begin to free up some space under the sink. But the problem is much bigger than inconvenience. Plastic bags are so abundant worldwide, that they have become a major drain on the environment. The amount of oil alone that it takes to produce them is mind boggling. When left in landfills, some studies show they can take up to 1000 years to rot away.

This article takes a look at how the international community is handling the issue. Interestingly, the US has been quite slow and behind the game in dealing with the plastic conundrum. Europe as a whole is being quite aggressive in fighting the problem. Both Italy and France passed legislation to ban plastic bags by 2010. In fact, Italy has been taxing plastic bags for the last 12 years. Also taxing free bags are Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands. The United Kingdom has a handful of cities that implemented bans, with many more considering the same.

Various African countries have bans including Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda, Somalia and Tanzania. Several cities in India have also banned them, mainly because of severe flooding blamed on bag-clogged drains. China banned free bags in 2008 with much success. The law caused a closure of a large plastic bag factory there. Considering their high population, this must have made a significant dent in worldwide plastic bag usage. According to the Worldwatch Institute, reports that the implications of China's decision in one year cut world demand by 40 billion bags, reduced the usage in China by 66%, and saved approximately 1.6 million tons of petroleum. Taiwan began taxing free light weight bags in 2003. South Australia banned free plastic bags in 2009 and required shops to supply reusable or environmentally friendly choices like cornstarch or paper bags.

In the US, where response has been comparatively slow with the rest of the world, Sand Francisco has been the first and only major city to ban the use of plastic bags. The state of California is currently considering a statewide ban or tax on free bags. Already they have passed a law requiring supermarkets to recycle the bags. In the current US economy, there is no doubt that its relatively poor condition is causing reluctance among lawmakers to add any more taxes. However it seems that this tax can be easily avoidable with the use of reusable bags.

Once Americans get into the habit of using reusable bags, plastic bags could soon be a thing of the past. Like cassette tapes, VHS and the Ford Pinto, people will look back on plastic bags and be thankful that they are gone.

Related Tags: bag, plastic, recycle

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