Pack up your plastic bags!

Posted on 11 February 2015.

What if the whole world stopped using plastic bags tomorrow? An urgent necessity, the prospect is the subject of several initiatives around the world.

In early 2000, between 500 and 1,000 billion * plastic bags were produced worldwide. Although on the face of it an enormous number, it is only a small proportion of the total plastic production, which in 2012 amounted 280 million tons worldwide - about 8,800 kilos per second **. Terrifying figures? Unquestionably. But a number of initiatives are being developed.

Action, reaction

As we know, used plastic bags are not favorites with the waste recycling industry. Once thrown away they are more likely to be found in the environment (where they can take up to 1,000 years to decompose), in the oceans, and even in the stomachs of mammals. That's why last July the Surfrider Foundation launched the Plastic Bag Campaign, inviting all European citizens to lobby their retailers and city halls to reduce or even ban plastic bags. The result? 13 European cities, including Hamburg and Grenoble, have officially joined the campaign.

But the Northern Hemisphere is not the only place getting things moving. Last November, the Galapagos Islands decided to ban not only plastic bags, but also plastic cups. In Africa plastic bags pollute not only the landscape and the environment, but also damage the soil and block drains, but Togo took action and introduced a ban in 2011. In Rwanda, a similar measure was introduced as early as 2008.

France has been greatly inspired by these measures. Since 1 January 2014, non biodegradable single-use bags available in large retail chains have been taxed. A bill was even passed last October that will ban them completely from 1 January 2016.

As it is impossible to extend plastic bag recycling worldwide in the immediate future (because of the cost and complexity of infrastructure involved), these measures are more than welcome.

* Source: Le Monde
** Planestoscope, real time environment related statistics service

Find out more:

- Plastic Bag Campaign website