There is a lot of good news on international efforts to focus public attention on plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways. Globally, countries are legislating bans on plastic products and introducing clean-up efforts on the pollution they already have. Is this enough? Can we win these battles and still be losing the war on plastics? (photo – Rick Carey-Shutterstock)
Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags
In 2002, Bangladesh was the first country to impose a total ban on lightweight, single-use plastic bags. Many countries followed their lead: including Rwanda, Kenya, and many more African countries. Asian countries like Taiwan and China, have also taken action.
Other nations have imposed partial bans or fees on the continued use of plastic bags. This includes Great Britain, Australia, parts of North America, most of Europe, India and Indonesia to name just a few. For a complete list, you can go to Wikipedia. Be forewarned– the list is quickly obsolete because of all the new countries joining in.
The Balearic Islands Wants Its Beaches Clean of Plastics!
Spain’s Balearic Islands will ban the sale of all single-use, consumer plastic products by 2020 in an effort to clean up its popular Mediterranean beaches. Catalonia instituted a plastic bag charge in 2017. The rest of Spain is introducing a charge this year. (photo – Massimo Pizzotti)
These lightweight, plastic bags are a pernicious threat to marine wildlife because they easily blow from landfill into waterways. Once in the water, they are often mistaken as food.
Can You Survive Without Plastic? Rwanda Is!
If Rwanda is on your travel itinerary and you want to avoid charges of smuggling, take heed. On a recent trip to the small African country, a Guardian journalist had her luggage searched at Kigali airport. What did the authorities confiscate? “Three plastic bags used to carry my shampoo and dirty laundry.”
Back in 2008, the country banned non-biodegradable polythene bags. Not a partial ban, not extra fees, Rwanda did away with plastic bags totally.
“Looking out the window of the bus that was taking me to Kigali, the capital, I could see none of the mountains of rubbish I’d grown accustomed to in other African countries. No plastic carrier bags floating in the wind or stranded on a tree branch,” says Emilie Clavel of the Guardian.
“Upon arrival in Kigali the contrast is even more evident. With its lovely green squares and wide boulevards, the Rwandan capital is one of the most beautiful cities in Africa. And it’s immaculate. It’s all part of the Vision 2020 plan to transform the nation.”
Problems caused by the ban persist. “But the mere fact that a developing country facing tremendous challenges has managed to enforce such groundbreaking legislation should make us wonder what the western world could achieve if the political will really existed.”
Here are Sustainable Alternatives You can Consider Today!
Let’s get started by giving you or your organization a menu of all the recyclable or compostable alternatives to the plastic bag. There are lots of choices. You can choose from any of these material types: Reusable Grocery Style, Custom Reusable Bags, Wine Bottle Bags, Drawstring Bags, Ripstop Polyester, Laminated Bags, Insulated Bags, Tradeshow bags, Non Woven Bags, or Cotton Canvas Bags.
Act Now, We May Be Losing the War on Plastics!
Above we have given you lots to be hopeful about in the battle to curb plastic pollution, so are we winning? An article in Bloomberg.com gives a very disturbing prediction of what might lie ahead for us. This article “Why We’re Losing the War On Plastics” is must reading. It points out that even with all the efforts to combat the use of plastic, the worldwide demand for plastic products is on the rise.
Today, plastic packaging is a $290 billion industry. Sales are expected to grow 4% each year for the next five years. The use of polyethylene, the type of plastic used in garbage bags and plastic bottles, is expected to grow at a similar rate. We are now producing approximately 80 million tons of polyethylene annually.
Where is the Demand Coming From?
Population growth and improving living standards throughout the developing world account for the majority of this increasing demand. Individuals in developed countries annually use about 40 kg of plastics. In countries like India the figure is 10% of that.
As the living standards of these poorer populations increase so does their consumption of plastic. Because plastic items are cheaper and lighter, they are replacing traditional handmade ceramic and paper products. Consider the daily benefits to the village woman in India who replaces the traditional pottery, water jug she carries on her head with a lighter, plastic jug.
So, the challenge to controlling plastic pollution remains multifaceted. We must continue to develop recycling infrastructure and press polluting countries to improve. (See our article Plastic Pollution in Paradise). We will not succeed if we do not introduce more and cheaper biodegradable alternatives to plastic.
China’s recent ban on importing the world’s plastic waste unfortunately might increase the production of plastics in the short-run. Hopefully, in the long term attention refocuses on the countries exporting plastic waste. The days of shipping our plastic waste “away” are over. See our article: Where Does All That Garbage Go?
The closing thought on the increase in plastic production described in the Bloomberg article is: “Despite all the heady economic forecasts, the political tide is moving against it.” Add to this wave the ongoing education of the world’s population, and we might reach a point where we all better understand and appreciate the benefits of moving beyond plastics.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean.net
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