Let us start with a simple and an obvious fact, plastic takes approximately 1000 years to completely decompose. So, the first plastic ever produced in any factory around the world hasn't decompose yet. Almost, annually, 95 billion plastic bags are produced around the globe - which equates at 1.9 million plastic bags per minute. Different countries have different usage levels depending upon their needs.
Plastic is taking over the whole world, almost everything that we buy from the markets comes with plastic packaging are plastic bags. Scientists and statisticians predict that there will be more plastic in the oceans then the fish, yeah you read it right, more than the fish. Plastic is the largest source of ocean litter followed by cigarettes on the second place.
In 1957, first plastic sandwich bags were introduced and then in 1970s departmental stores started using plastic bags for packaging and in 1980s big supermarkets introduced plastic bags. Plastic bags were very cost effective as compared to other alternatives like cloth bags and paper bags. So, with a strong flux plastic took over the whole world, people started using and manufacturing plastic bags without knowing the consequences.
Some decades later the problem came in front of the consumers which were mainly the humans. In an effort to reduce unnecessary waste, environmentalists and scientists started looking out for the alternatives. While, the scientists strived for the alternatives, environmental activists started awareness campaigns to tackle the problem. These problems were taken in front of politicians and lawmakers to handle the problem more genuinely and effectively. So this started a positive and constructive wave of struggle against plastic. Many countries and governments around the globe started banning plastic and other synthetic fibers which were very hard to naturally decompose. Below we have discussed some of the laws passed by the governments around the world.
Plastic ban started in 1993 from Denmark where fees are charged for the use of plastic bags. This caused the use of plastic to drop by 62% very quickly.
Ireland was the second to follow this course which took concrete measures against plastic by passing "bag tax" in 2002. This law charged extra money on plastic bags. So, the shops and markets stopped giving plastic bags along with the groceries and other buy-ables. Due to which plastic use dropped by 90% in Ireland and in 2007 tax was increased to further tighten the grip on the neck of plastics and synthetic fibers.
Over 95% of the birds and fish have plastics in their stomach which ultimately ends up in the stomach of humans. In order to protect the migrating Whales in Tasmania, Australia banned the plastic bags locally in 2003. Before the plastic bags ban, 7 billion plastic bags were used in Australia.
China, which is not best known for its environmental concerns, in fact, started the Limited use of plastic bags in 1990s, although this effort wasn't very successful. In 2008 prior to Beijing Olympics, China banned the thinnest plastics bags and charged extra for thicker ones. Sadly the compliance of this law is very low. But the bright side is that bag ban in China saved up to 1 million tons of oil.
Seemingly, Rawanda's strategy to tackle this problem is the strictest one. The ban started in 2008, and passengers have to hand their plastic bags to the authorities before entering the country.
San Francisco was the first US city to ban plastic in 2007. In 2014, San Francisco Board of supervisors passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale and manufacturing of plastic water bottles that contain less than 21 ounces of plastic.
Some South American countries like Chile, Argentina and Brazil only use biodegradable bags. In first Sao Paulo banned plastic bags 2012 but unfortunately took back this law.
Kenya becomes the latest country to ban plastic bags with some very tough loss. The country has totally banned the manufacturing, importing and uses of plastic bags. The persons who do not comply with these laws have to face up to 4 million Kenyan shillings - which come equates to $38,000 or a 4 years’ jail. Kenya has now joined the list of countries like Cameroon, Eritrea, Mauritania, Morocco and Bangladesh.
In 2018, France is the first country to ban plastic cups and plates to save environment. This new law will take effect from 2020. And no further plastic manufacturers and entrepreneurs will be allowed to build factories for plastic manufacturing.
Different Countries have different reasons to ban plastic. For instance, Kenya is banning plastic to stop malaria. In Bangladesh, Cameroon and Philippines it is being done to avoid floods. In India, for protection of cow and in Mauritania for the protection of animals related to plastic ingestion.
Whatever the reasons, it doesn’t make sense today to continue using so much disposable plastics when we know the environmental impacts and do have alternatives at our disposal. And even though we can all act at our own scale to reduce our plastic consumption, it’s firstly the responsibility of any governments to start acting upon those issues.
Chinese version: Wei Yichen