Jul 3, 2019 - 3min read
It’s International Plastic Bag Free Day today, designed to show that a plastic bag free world is possible and to highlight the way plastic is damaging our environment.
Here are some terrifying facts: up to 1 trillion plastic bags are still used every year and only one in 200 plastic bags are recycled; 100,000 marine mammals are killed by plastic bags in the ocean every year; it takes between 100 and 500 years for a plastic bag to disintegrate.
But it’s not all bad news. Organisations are starting to take responsibility and are finding alternatives to one-use plastic. From brands phasing out plastic bags to country-wide bans, take a look at how we are moving towards a plastic bag free world.
Brands commit to phasing out plastic bags
Since the introduction of 5p plastic bags in 2015, plastic bag sales have fallen by 86%: 7.6 billion single-use bags were sold in 2014, compared to just over a billion in 2017-18. The UK retailer Boots recently jumped onto the anti-plastic bag bandwagon and are taking things one step further: the chain has committed to phase plastic bags out altogether by next year, replacing them with brown paper bags.
The bags, which will be subject to a 5p, 7p or 10p charge depending on its size, will remove 40m plastic bags from the environment per year.
Boots isn’t the only store reducing its plastic footprint: Aldi is currently trialling eco-friendly alternatives in all 830 stores. Half the shops will trial papers bags and the other half will try out biodegradable ‘Bioplast’ bags. At the end of the trial, the most popular bag will be rolled out in all UK stores.
Sainsbury’s has also committed to reducing their plastic footprint by 489 tonnes - in September, paper bags will replace plastic ones for bakery goods. Sainsbury’s also plans to ban plastic cutlery, cream pots and trays.
States Turn against Plastic
This April, New York became the third US state to ban the sale of single-use plastic bags. New York joined California and Hawaii, the other States to have already banned plastic bags, on Earth Day 2019. The legislation will come into practice next year. New York currently uses 23 billion plastic bags, with 50% ending up in landfill or on the streets and in the waters. New York will also introduce a five-cent fee for single-use paper bags in an attempt to get people to re-use their bags.
New York isn’t the only place committed to banning plastic bags, however: Northern Territory, South Australia, and Tasmania, Karnataka, India and coastal cities in Chile have also implemented bans.
The countries where plastic bags are banned
Did you know that several countries around the world have already banned plastic bags? 127 countries currently have some sort of plastic regulations in place, but New Zealand, Bangladesh, China, Israel, South Africa, the Netherlands, Morocco, Kenya, Rwanda, Mauritania, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Albania and Georgia have implemented plastic bag bans, with fines in place for rule breakers, and we’re sure more are going to follow suit.
The latest country to commit to banning single-use plastic, which includes disposable plastic bags, is Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that his government will ban single-use plastics and take other steps to reduce plastic consumption by 2021.
Speaking in June 2019, Trudeau said: “To be honest, as a dad it is tough trying to explain this to my kids. How do you explain dead whales washing up on beaches across the world, their stomachs jam-packed with plastic bags?”
The Prime Minister didn’t specify which products will be banned, but it is likely to cover plastic bags, straws and plates. Canada has the world’s longest coastline and a quarter of the world’s freshwater supply, so we are ecstatic to hear they are committed to taking care of their oceans.