Plastic bag ban

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A plastic bag ban or charge is a law that restricts the use of lightweight plastic bags at retail establishments. In the early 21st century, there has been a global trend towards the phase-out of lightweight plastic bags.[1][2] Single-use plastic shopping bags, commonly made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic[citation needed],[3] have traditionally been given for free to customers by stores when purchasing goods: the bags have long been considered a convenient, cheap, and hygienic way of transporting items. Problems associated with plastic bags include use of non-renewable resources (such as crude oil, gas and coal),[4] difficulties during disposal, and environmental impacts. Concurrently with the reduction in lightweight plastic bags, shops have introduced reusable shopping bags.

Various governments have banned the sale of lightweight bags, charge customers for lightweight bags, or generate taxes from the stores that sell them.[2][5] The Bangladesh government was the first to do so in 2002, imposing a total ban on lightweight plastic bags.[6] Between 2010 and 2019, the number of public policies intended to phase out plastic carryout bags tripled.[7] As of 2022, such bans have been introduced in 99 countries, with varying degrees of enforcement, and 32 countries instead impose a charge per bag. Bans and charges have also been enacted by some jurisdictions at the sub-national level.[citation needed]


Plastic waste on the mounds of garbage in the Philippines

Plastic bags cause many minor and major ecological and environmental issues. The most general issue with plastic bags is the amount of waste produced. Many plastic bags end up on streets and subsequently pollute major water sources, rivers, and streams.

Photodegraded plastic bag adjacent to hiking trail. Approx. 2,000 pieces 1 to 25 mm (1/32" to 1"), three months' exposure outdoors[clarification needed].

Even when disposed of properly, they take many years to decompose and break down, generating large amounts of garbage over long periods of time. Improperly discarded bags have polluted waterways, clogged sewers and been found in oceans, affecting the ecosystem of marine creatures.[3] Huge volumes of plastic waste end up in the oceans every year, causing threats to marine species and disruption to the marine food chain. Several microbial species colonize on plastic particles enhancing their harmfulness, and plastic particles driven by winds form garbage patches in various parts of the oceans.[8] The UN estimates that there will be more plastics than fish in the oceans by 2050 unless countries comes up with urgent measures to promote efficient production, use and waste management of plastics throughout their life cycles.[9]

Plastic bags have been found to contribute to global warming. After disposed of, if exposed to consistent sunlight the surface of such plastic produces significant amounts of two greenhouse gasesmethane and ethylene. Furthermore, due to its low density/high branching properties, it breaks down more easily over time compared to other plastics leading to higher exposed surface areas and accelerated release of gases. Production of these trace gases from virgin plastics exponentially increases with surface area/time, thus LDPE emits greenhouse gases at a more unsustainable rate compared to other plastics. At the end of a 212-day incubation, emissions have been recorded at 5.8 nanomoles per gram per day (nmol⋅g−1⋅d−1) of methane, 14.5 nmol⋅g−1⋅d−1 of ethylene, 3.9 nmol⋅g−1⋅d−1 of ethane and 9.7 nmol⋅g−1⋅d−1 of propylene.[10]

Two primary kinds of direct damage to wildlife are entanglement and ingestion.[11] Animals can become entangled and drown.[12] Plastic bags are often ingested by animals that cannot distinguish them from food. As a result, they clog their intestines which results in death by starvation.[12] Plastic bags can block drains, trap birds and kill livestock. The World Wide Fund for Nature has estimated that over 100,000 whales, seals, and turtles die every year[13] as a result of eating or being trapped by plastic bags. In India, an estimated number of 20 cows die per day as a result of ingesting plastic bags and having their digestive systems clogged by the bags. It is also very common across Africa to have sewers and drain systems clogged by bags which cause severe cases of malaria due to the increased population of mosquitoes that live on the flooded sewers.[14] The term "white pollution" has been coined in China to describe the local and global effects of discarded plastic bags upon the environment.[15]

Lightweight plastic bags are also blown into trees and other plants and can be mistaken for food. Plastic bags break down by polymer degradation but not by biodegradation. As a result, any toxic additives they contain—including flame retardants, antimicrobials, and plasticizers—will be released into the environment. Many of those toxins directly affect the endocrine systems of organisms, which control almost every cell in the body.[16] Research shows the average operating "lifespan" of a plastic bag to be approximately 20 years.[17]

Plastic bags dumped in the Pacific Ocean can end up in the Great Pacific garbage patch. 80% of the plastic waste comes from land; the rest comes from oil platforms and ships.[18] This can be eaten by marine animals, and block their breathing passages and digestive systems. Plastic bags not only add to the Great Pacific garbage patch, they can be washed ashore around the world.[19]


The two most popular methods of phasing out lightweight plastic bags are charges and bans.[7] The charge strategy is said[who?] to have all of the same results in plastic bag reduction as a plastic bag ban, with the additional benefit of creating a new revenue source.[20] The plastic bag charge method also protects consumer choice, which the ban does not.[20]

Recycling of plastic bags can be another method of phase-out. However, only 5% of plastic bags make it to recycling facilities.[20] Even when bags are brought to recycling facilities, they often fly out of these bins or recycling trucks and end up as litter on the streets.[21] Another issue with recycling is that different bags are made from different yet aesthetically similar types of plastics.[20] Bags can be either made of bioplastics or biodegradable plastics, and if accidentally combined in a compost, the bioplastics could contaminate the biodegradable composting.[20] These bags can also jam recycling equipment when mixed with other types of plastic, which can be costly to repair.[21] For example, costs of repairs rounded out to be about $1 million per year in San Jose, California.[21]


Grocery bag comparisons of environmental impact
Grocery bag comparisons for greenhouse gas emissions

According to a 2018 study in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, a five-cent tax on disposable bags reduced disposable bag usage by 40 percentage points.[22] According to a 2019 review of existing studies, levies and taxes led to a 66% reduction in usage in Denmark, more than 90% in Ireland, between 74 and 90% in South Africa, Belgium, Hong Kong, Washington D.C., Santa Barbara, the UK and Portugal, and around 50% in Botswana and China.[7]

A 2019 study in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management found that the implementation of a ban on plastic carryout bags in California led to a reduction of 40 million pounds of plastic through the elimination of plastic carryout bags but that Californians purchased 12 million pounds of plastic through trash bag purchases.[23] The study showed that before the introduction of the ban between 12% and 22% of plastic carryout bags were re-used as trash bags.[23]


Plastic bag bans can lead to larger black markets in plastic bags.[7] Studies show that plastic bag bans can shift people away from using thin plastic bags, but it can also increase the use of unregulated single use paper bags or unregulated thicker plastic bags in areas where these are provided for free.[24] Further, the bans can drive significant increases in sales of trash bags because people could no longer reuse their old grocery bags for things like lining small trash cans.[25][26][27][28]: 270.[7][29]: 1[28]: 254[28]: 270[excessive citations]

The production of some non-plastic bags (e.g. paper, cotton, using virgin plastic such as plastic having thickness of 50 micron) can produce more greenhouse gas emissions than plastic bags, which means that greenhouse gas emissions may increase on net following plastic bag bans. Alternatives to plastic bags would need to be reused over a hundred times to make them more environmentally friendly than plastic bags.[26][30] They are also viewed as less sanitary than plastic because they can bring germs from outside the store to high contact volume surfaces like carts and check out stands.[30]

Legislation around the world[edit]


Phase out of lightweight plastic bags around the world
Phase out of lightweight plastic bags around the world (laws passed but not yet in effect are not shown on map)
  Plastic bags banned
  A charge on some plastic bags
  Voluntary charge agreement
  Partial charge or ban (municipal or regional levels)

Legislation Country United Nations Regional Group Notes References
Ban  Afghanistan Asia-Pacific [31]
Ban  Albania Eastern Europe Since 2018. [32]
Ban  Andorra Western Europe and Others Since 2017. [33]
Ban  Anguilla N/A Since 2018. [34]
Ban  Antigua and Barbuda Latin America [35]
Regional ban  Argentina Latin America Banned in several provinces and cities. [36]
Ban  Armenia Eastern Europe Since 2022. [37]
Ban  Australia [needs update] Western Europe and Others Lightweight plastic bags banned in supermarkets in all states and territories. Initially replaced by reusable thick 15¢ bags in the two major supermarket chains, this was phased out by June 2023. Legislation covering other retailers varies by state/territory.

Norfolk Island has a voluntary agreement with retailers.

[38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][excessive citations]
Ban  Austria Western Europe and Others Since 2020. [47]
Ban  Azerbaijan Eastern Europe Since 2021. [48]
Ban  Bahamas Latin America Since 1 July 2020. [49]
Ban  Bahrain Asia-Pacific Since 21 July 2019. [50]
Ban  Bangladesh Asia-Pacific Since 2002. [51]
Ban  Barbados Latin America Since April 2019. [52]
 Belarus Eastern Europe Charge is being considered. [53]
Ban  Belgium Western Europe and Others Since 2016 in Wallonia, 2017 in Brussels, 2019 in Flanders. [54][55]
Ban  Belize Latin America Since 22 April 2019 (Earth Day). [56][57]
Ban  Benin Africa Since November 2017. [58][59]
Ban  Bhutan Asia-Pacific [60]
Regional ban  Bolivia South America Banned in La Paz. [61]
Charge  Bosnia and Herzegovina Eastern Europe [31]
Ban  Botswana Africa Since November 2018.
Regional ban  Brazil Latin America Banned in Sao Paulo and the State of Rio de Janeiro. [62][63]
 British Indian Ocean Territory N/A Move from plastic to paper bags planned, method not announced. [64]
Voluntary charge  Brunei Asia-Pacific [65]
Charge  Bulgaria Eastern Europe [66]
Ban  Burkina Faso Africa Since 2015. [67][59]
Ban  Burundi Africa Since 22 August 2019. [68]
Charge  Cambodia Asia-Pacific Since October 2017. [69]
Ban  Cameroon Africa Since April 2014. [70]
Ban  Canada Western Europe and Others Since 20 Dec 2022. See section[71]
Ban  Cape Verde Africa Since 2017. [72][59]
Ban  Central African Republic Africa Since 2021 [73]
Regional ban  Chad Africa Banned in N'Djamena. [74]
Ban  Chile Latin America Since February 2019. [75]
Ban  People's Republic of China Asia-Pacific Since 2022. Charge applied since June 2008. Replaced by ban, excluding fresh produce markets until 2025. Hong Kong and Macau apply a charge. [76][77][78][79][80]
Charge  Republic of China (Taiwan) Asia-Pacific Since 2003. Ban planned for 2030. [81][82][83][84]
Ban  Colombia Latin America Since July 2017. Charge applied to reusable bags. [85][86]
Ban  Comoros Africa Since April 2018. [87]
Ban  Costa Rica Latin America Since 2021. [88][89]
Ban  Democratic Republic of the Congo Africa Since 2018. [90]
Ban  Republic of the Congo Africa Since 2011. [91]
Ban  Croatia Eastern Europe Since 2022. [92]
Ban  Cyprus Western Europe and Others Since 18 February 2023. [93][94]
Charge  Czech Republic Eastern Europe Since 2018 [95]
Charge  Denmark Western Europe and Others A tax on plastic bags since 1993. There is also a tax in Greenland. [96][97]
Ban  Djibouti Africa [31]
Ban  Dominica North America Since 2019. [98]
Ban  East Timor Asia-Pacific Since 23 February 2021. [99]
Charge  Ecuador Latin America Since 9 May 2020. Banned in the Galápagos Islands. [100][101]
Regional ban  Egypt Africa Banned in Red Sea Governorate. [102]
Charge  Equatorial Guinea Africa Charge since 12 December 2019. [103]
Ban  Eritrea Africa Since 2005. [104]
Charge  Estonia Eastern Europe Since July 2017. [96]
Regional ban  Ethiopia Africa [105]
Ban  Fiji Asia-Pacific Since 2020. [106]
Voluntary charge  Finland Western Europe and Others [107][96]
Ban  France Western Europe and Others Since July 2016. Also banned in Overseas France. [108][109][110][111][112]
Ban  Gabon Africa Since 2010. [113]
Ban  Gambia Africa Since 2015. [114][59]
Ban  Georgia Eastern Europe Since 2017. [115]
Ban  Germany Western Europe and Others Since 2022. [116]
Ban  Gibraltar N/A Since 2019. [117]
Charge  Greece Western Europe and Others Since 2018. [118]
Ban  Grenada Latin America Since February 2019. [119]
Ban  Guatemala Latin America Since 2021. [120]
Regional bans and voluntary charges  (Bailiwick of) Guernsey N/A Ban in Alderney. Voluntary charge in Guernsey. [121][122]
Ban  Guinea-Bissau Africa Since 2016. [123][59]
Ban  Guyana Latin America Since 2021. [124]
Ban  Haiti Latin America [125][57]
Regional ban  Honduras Latin America Banned in the Bay Islands Department. [126]
Charge  Hungary Eastern Europe Since 2012. [96]
Ban  Iceland Western Europe and Others Since 2021. [127]
Ban  India Asia-Pacific Since 2002. Also banned at regional levels due to poor enforcement. [5][128]
Regional bans and charges  Indonesia Asia-Pacific Charges in 23 cities. Banned in Bali since June 2019 and Jakarta since July 2020. [129][130][131][132]
Charge  Ireland Western Europe and Others Since March 2002, a 0.15 Euro tax has been added to all plastic bags. Since these charges were added, there has been a 90% reduction in the use of plastic bags. [133][134]
Ban  Isle of Man N/A Full ban in force from 18 October 2023, including products made from oxo-degradable plastics. [135][136][137]
Charge  Israel Western Europe and Others Since January 2017. [138]
Ban  Italy Western Europe and Others Since January 2011. [139]
Ban  Ivory Coast Africa Since 2014. [140][59]
Ban  Jamaica Latin America Since January 2019. [141][57]
Charge  Japan Asia-Pacific Since July 2020. [142][143][144]
Ban  Jersey N/A Ban since July 2022. Reusable bags subject to 70p charge. [145][146]
 Kazakhstan Asia-Pacific Ban is being considered. [147]
Ban  Kenya Africa Since 28 August 2017. [148]
Ban  Kiribati Asia-Pacific Since October 2020. [149]
Regional ban  Kyrgyzstan Asia-Pacific Banned in tourist areas. Ban planned for 2027. [150]
Charge  Latvia Eastern Europe Since January 2019. Ban to be implemented by 2025. [151][152]
Regional ban  Lebanon Asia-Pacific Banned in Byblos. [153]
 Lesotho Africa Charge planned. [154]
Charge  Lithuania Eastern Europe Since 31 December 2018. [96]
Charge  Luxembourg Western Europe and Others [96][107]
Ban  Madagascar Africa Since 2015. [155]
 Malawi Africa Bans revoked several times. [87]
Regional charge  Malaysia Asia-Pacific Charges in two states. [156][157]
Ban  Maldives Asia-Pacific Since June 2021. [158]
Ban  Mali Africa [159][59]
Ban  Malta Western Europe and Others Since 2022. [96][160]
Ban  Marshall Islands Asia-Pacific [161]
Ban  Mauritania Africa Since 2013. [162]
Ban  Mauritius Africa Since 2016. [163]
Regional ban  Mexico Latin America Banned in 18 states and Mexico City. [164][165][166]
Ban  Micronesia Asia-Pacific Since 31 December 2020. [161][167][168][169]
Ban  Republic of Moldova Eastern Europe Since 2021. [170]
Ban  Monaco Western Europe and Others Since 2016. [171]
Ban  Mongolia Asia-Pacific Since March 2019. [172]
 Montenegro Eastern Europe Ban has been proposed. [173]
Ban  Morocco Africa Since July 2016. [174]
Charge  Mozambique Africa Since 5 February 2016. Ban to be implemented by 2024. [175][176]
Regional ban  Myanmar Asia-Pacific Banned in Yangon. [177]
Regional ban  Namibia Africa Banned in protected places. Levy approved but not implemented. [87][178]
Ban  Nauru Asia-Pacific Since 23 April 2021. [179]
Ban    Nepal Asia-Pacific [180]
Charge  Netherlands Western Europe and Others Since 2016. Banned in Aruba, Sint Maarten and Caribbean Netherlands. [181][182][183][184][185]
Ban  New Zealand Western Europe and Others Since July 2019. Also banned in Niue. Ban planned in the Cook Islands. [186][187][188]
Ban  Niger Africa [189][59]
Ban  Nigeria Africa [190][59]
Charge  North Macedonia Eastern Europe Since 2009. [191][192]
Voluntary charge  Norway Western Europe and Others [193]
Ban  Oman Asia-Pacific Since 2021. [194]
Ban  Pakistan Asia-Pacific Banned independently in each of the country's provinces and territories from 1994 to 2019. [195][196][197][198]
Ban  Palau Asia-Pacific [199]
Ban  Panama Latin America Since 20 July 2019. [200]
Ban  Papua New Guinea Asia-Pacific Since 2016. [201][202]
Charge  Peru Latin America Since August 2019. [203][204]
Regional ban and charges  Philippines Asia-Pacific Banned in select cities of Metro Manila, excluding Taguig, Malabon, Caloocan, Valenzuela, Navotas and San Juan. [205][206][207][208][209]
Charge  Poland Eastern Europe Since 2018. [210]
Charge  Portugal Western Europe and Others Since 2016. [211]
Ban  Romania Eastern Europe Since 2019. [96]
 Russian Federation Eastern Europe Ban planned for 2024. [212]
Ban  Rwanda Africa Since 2008. [213]
Ban  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Latin America Since August 2020. [214]
Ban  Samoa Asia-Pacific Since 2019. [215]
Ban  San Marino Western Europe and Others Since 1 June 2021. [216]
Ban  Sao Tome and Principe Africa Since 2021 [217]
Ban  Senegal Africa Since April 2015. [218][59]
Charge  Serbia Eastern Europe Since 2018. Banned in Belgrade. [219][220]
Ban  Seychelles Africa Since 2017. [221]
Charge  Slovakia Eastern Europe Since March 2017. [96]
Charge  Slovenia Eastern Europe Since 2019. [222]
Regional ban  Solomon Islands Asia-Pacific Banned in Western Province. [223]
Regional ban  Somalia Africa Banned in Somaliland. [224][225][226][227][228]
Charge  South Africa Africa Since 2004. [229][230]
Ban Republic of Korea Asia-Pacific Since August 2018. [231]
Ban  South Sudan Africa [232]
Charge  Spain Western Europe And Others Since July 2018. Banned in Balearic Islands since 2020. [233][234]
Ban  Sri Lanka Asia Since 2017. [235]
Regional ban  Sudan Africa Banned in Khartoum State. [236]
Charge  Sweden Western Europe and Others [237]
Voluntary charge   Switzerland Western Europe and Others Banned in Geneva since 2020. Voluntary charge elsewhere. [238][239][240][241]
Ban  Tanzania, United Republic of Africa Since June 2019. [242][243]
Ban  Thailand Asia-Pacific Since 2021. [244][245]
Ban  Togo Africa Since July 2018. [246][59]
Ban  Tunisia Africa Since March 2017. [247]
Charge  Turkey Western Europe and Others Also a ban in some regions. Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus also applies a charge. [248][249][250]
Ban  Turks and Caicos N/A Since January 2019. [251]
Ban  Tuvalu Asia-Pacific Since August 2019. [252]
Ban  Uganda Africa Since September 2007. [253]
Ban  Ukraine Eastern Europe Since 10 December 2021. [254][255]
Ban  United Arab Emirates Asia-Pacific Since 1 January 2024. [256]
Charge  United Kingdom Western Europe and Others  England: 5p levy introduced in 2015. Raised to 10p in 2021. [257][258]
 Northern Ireland: 5p levy since 2013. Raised to 25p in 2022. [259][260]
 Scotland: 5p charge since 2014. Raised to 10p in 2021. [261][262]
 Wales: 5p charge since 2011. Ban proposed. [263][264]
Regional bans and charges  United States Western Europe and Others Banned in twelve states (one de facto) and five territories. Charge in Washington, DC. Bans and charges in several municipalities. See main article
Ban  Uruguay South America Since July 2019. [265]
Charge  Uzbekistan Asia-Pacific Since 2019. [266]
Ban  Vanuatu Asia-Pacific Since 31 January 2018. [267]
Ban  Vatican City Western Europe and Others Since 2019. [268]
 Vietnam Asia-Pacific Ban planned for 2025. [269]
Ban  Yemen Asia-Pacific [31]
 Zambia Africa Ban announced but not implemented. [87]
Ban  Zimbabwe Africa [31]


Plastic waste in Karey Gorou, Niger


Kenya made the first attempt to ban the manufacturing and importation of plastic bags in 2007 and 2011 as a way to protect the environment.[270] The 2007 and 2011 ban targeting plastics below 30 microns failed after manufacturers and retail outlets threatened to pass on the cost of using other materials to consumers.[271] In 2017 the cabinet secretary of Environment and Natural resources, Prof Judy Wakhungu banned the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging under Gazette notice number 2356.[272] On 28 August 2017, Kenya began implementing a countrywide ban of single-use plastic bags. Primary packaging bags, hospital waste bags, and garbage bin liners have been exempted from the ban. The ban has been hailed as one of the most stringent in the world, with fines of up to $40000, or four years in prison.[148]

President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2019, during World Environment Day, further solidified Kenya's efforts to fight plastic pollution and in the sustainable management of waste by banning single-use plastics in protected natural areas.[273] The ban, which came into effect on 5 June 2020, prohibits the use of plastics in National Parks, beaches, forests and conservation areas.


In May 2019, The House of Representatives of Nigeria banned the production, import and usage of plastic bags in the country.[59][190]


Rwanda's plastic bag ban went into effect in 2008. The Rwandan government has encouraged other countries in their region to ban plastic bags as well, starting in 2011.[274]


Plastic bags were banned in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland on 1 March 2005 after a 120-day grace period that the government had given to the public to get rid of their stocks. The Ministry of Trade and Industries announced the cabinet decision in a decree titled: "Banning importation, production and use of plastic bags in the country". The bags had been nicknamed "the Hargeysa flower", as many of them ended up being blown around and getting stuck in trees and shrubs, posing a danger to livestock because the animals that feed on the leaves often ingest the bags accidentally. In 2015 the ban was repeated by Presidential Decree No. #JSL/M/XERM/249-3178/042015, again providing for a 120 days grace period to get rid of stocks. To ensure the implementation of the ban, the government constituted enforcement teams in 2016 to conduct special drives which launch probes into business stalls. At least 1000 men and women in uniform deployed into the main markets and shopping malls. The government announced fines against violators who continue selling plastic bags in the country.[224][225][226][227][228]

South Africa[edit]

Plastic bags were a major concern in South Africa before the bag levy was introduced in 2004. The bags were never banned, but a levy was introduced, payable by the plastic bag manufacturer. The thicker plastic bags are levied and although this move initially caused outrage with consumers and an initial decline in volumes, consumers use has continually increased to several billion plastic shopping bags every year.[229][230]


The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar banned plastic bags in 2005.[275] Tanzania introduced plans to implement a nationwide ban on plastic bags in 2006.[276] However, its ratification had been delayed for more than ten years.[277] The ban finally came into effect on 1 June 2019.[243]


Tunisia introduced a ban on plastic bag distribution in supermarkets starting from 1 March 2017. An agreement was signed between the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment and large supermarket chains in the country to enact the first phase of a process aiming to reduce the consumption of plastic bags.[247] Tunisian activists are planning awareness campaigns to establish greener policies in the country.[278]


Heap of trash including plastic bags in Kampala, Uganda

Uganda introduced legislation in 2007 to ban the sale of lightweight plastic bags under 30 μm thick and tax thicker bags at a punitive rate of 120%. Although the laws came into effect in September of that year,[253] they have not been enforced and have failed to measurably reduce the use of plastic bags.[279] The law is not well enforced.[280]



A strict ban was introduced in Bangladesh in 2002 after floods caused by littered plastic bags submerged two-thirds of the country in water between 1988 and 1998.[51] Plastic bags remain a big problem for sewerage system and waterways.


Cambodia passed legislation to impose a plastic bag tax in October 2017. Supermarkets now charge customers 400 Riels (10 US cents) per plastic bag should they need one.[69]


A total plastic bag ban on ultra thin plastic bags and a fee on plastic bags was introduced in China on 1 June 2008. This came into effect because of the problems with sewerage and general waste. One 2009 survey suggests that plastic bag use fell between 60 and 80% in Chinese supermarkets, and 40 billion fewer bags were used. However, first hand accounts clearly indicate, the ban has seen limited success, and that the use of plastic bags remains prevalent. Street vendors and smaller stores, which make up a significant portion of retail in China, do not abide by the policy in part due to difficulties of enforcing the ban.[76]

The term "white pollution" (Chinese: 白色污染; pinyin: baise wuran, less often "white garbage" Chinese: 白色垃圾; pinyin: baise laji) appears to be local to China and later to South Asia, enjoying far less use and recognition outside of the region. It refers to the color of white plastic shopping bags, styrofoam containers, and other light-colored materials that began turning up in visible volume in agricultural fields, the landscape, and waterways in the mid- to late 1990's. The first references to the term "white pollution" appear in official language at least as early as 1999, when the first bans were imposed by the State Council.[281][282][283][284][285]

Hong Kong[edit]

Hong Kong forbids retailers from giving plastic bags under a certain thickness and for free.[5] A 50 cent plastic bag levy was implemented on 1 April 2015 across Hong Kong. The use of plastic bags dropped 90% after the introduction of the levy.[77] Signs show that Hong Kong is phasing out the use of plastic bags at a dramatic rate.

A sign proclaiming that polythene bags thinner than 30 μm are prohibited in Kasaragod, Kerala, India.


In 2002, India banned the production of plastic bags below 20 μm in thickness to prevent plastic bags from clogging of the municipal drainage systems and to prevent the cows of India ingesting plastic bags as they confuse it for food.[5][128] However, enforcement remains a problem.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has also passed regulation to ban all polythene bags less than 50 microns on 18 March 2016.[286] Due to poor implementation of this regulation, regional authorities (states and municipal corporations), have had to implement their own regulation.

In 2016, Sikkim, India's first fully organic state,[287] banned the use of not only packaged drinking water bottles in any government meetings or functions but also food containers made from polystyrene foam all over the state.[288]

Himachal Pradesh was the first state to ban plastic bags less than 30 μm. The Karnataka state became first state to ban all forms of plastic carry bags, plastic banners, plastic buntings, flex, plastic flags, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic spoons, cling films and plastic sheets for spreading on dining tables irrespective of thickness including the above items made of thermacol and plastic which uses plastic micro beads.[289][290] The state of Goa has banned bags up to 40 μm thick,[291] while the city of Mumbai bans bags below a minimum thickness to 50 μm.[292]

The state Government of Maharashtra banned plastic starting 23 June 2018.[293] The state Government of Tamil Nadu also banned plastic starting 1 January 2019.[294]


From 2016, the Environment Ministry obliged retailers in 23 cities across the archipelago (mini-markets, hypermarkets, and supermarkets) to charge consumers between Rp.200 and Rp.5,000 for each plastic bag, including degradable plastic bags. Money raised by the tax are used as public funds for waste management alongside non-governmental organizations.[129]

The island of Bali banned single-use plastic bags, straws, and styrofoam, effective July 2019.[295] Other major cities, including Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Semarang and Bogor, have since also banned single use plastic bags.[296]


Since January 2017, large retailers are required to charge consumers for plastic bags with handles, at NIS 0.10 for each bag. The tax revenues will be used to fund public waste-management programs.[citation needed] The average use of plastic bags in Israel in 2014 was 275 per person per year.[138] Four months after the law came into force, the number of disposable plastic bags distributed by retailers subject to the law had dropped by 80%.[297]


The Philippines is the world's third-largest ocean polluter despite a waste management act which came into effect 18 years ago. Efforts to regulate plastics have been hampered by corruption, lack of political will, and the proliferation and wide accessibility of single-use plastic products.[298]

In 2010, Muntinlupa became the first local government in the National Capital Region to ban plastic bags and styrofoam in shops.[299] This was followed by the measures in the cities of Las Piñas (2 January 2012), Pasig (1 January 2012), Quezon City (1 September 2012, bags for a fee), Pasay (1 September 2012, bags for a fee), Makati (30 June 2013), and Paranaque (June 2021).[300][301]

Metro Manila cities that have delayed imposing regulations and bans include Taguig, Caloocan, Malabon, Valenzuela, Navotas and San Juan, which are home to hundreds of plastics and rubber manufacturing companies. In one city, a mayor's family owns a 60-hectare "Plastic City Industrial" compound.[208]

On 4 July 2019, Senator Francis Pangilinan filed a bill seeking to phase out single-use plastic products by prohibiting importation, manufacture and use in food establishments, stores, markets, and retailers.[302][303]


Large supermarkets in Singapore are required to charge a disposable carrier bag tax of at least 5 cents per bag, since 3 July 2023.[304][305]


In January 2003, Taiwan banned the free distribution of lightweight plastic bags.[81] The ban prevented the owners of department stores, shopping malls, hypermarkets, convenience stores, fast food restaurants and regular restaurants from providing free plastic bags to their customers. Many stores have replaced plastic with recycled paper boxes.[306] In 2006, however, the administration decided to begin allowing free plastic bags to be offered by food service operators.[307] In February 2018, Taiwan announced plans to ban plastic bags in varying degrees, banned for in-store use by 2019, certain stores prohibited from offering bags by 2020, price increases starting 2025, then 2030 blanket ban of single-use plastic bags, as well as single-use utensils and containers.[82][83][84]


European Union[edit]

In November 2013, the European Commission published a proposal aiming to reduce the consumption of lightweight (thickness below 50 microns) plastic carrier bags.[308] Under the proposal, EU member states can choose the most appropriate measures to discourage the use of plastic bags.

On 29 April 2015 the European Parliament passed Directive 2015/720, aiming to reduce plastic bag use by 50% by 2017 and 80% by 2019.[309][310][needs update]


In 2003, Denmark introduced a tax on retailers giving out plastic bags. This encouraged stores to charge for plastic bags and pushed the use of reusable bags. It was thought that this saved about 66% of plastic and paper bags.[311] In 2004, a similar law was passed by the Inatsisartut in Greenland, which applied a recycling tax on plastic bags.[97] By 2014 Denmark had the lowest plastic bag use in Europe, with 4 bags per person per year, compared to 466 in Portugal, Poland and Slovakia.[312]


The German Packaging Act was introduced on 1 January 2019, limiting the number of disposable plastic bags used for packaging. Companies planning to use these materials are now required to register with the government before distributing their products. If they do not comply, they can be fined up to 200,000 and banned from selling their products.[313] The amendment also established recycling quotas that markets must meet to avoid being fined. In 2019, 36% of plastic bags used for packaging were required to be recycled, but this percentage was increased to 63% in 2022.[314] An amendment to the Packaging Act was introduced on 9 February 2021, banning all single-use plastic, including shopping bags, from 1 January 2022.[315]


Prior to the introduction of a charge on plastic bags, Greece produced roughly 4 billion single-use plastic bags every year.[316] Though the average person in Greece disposed of over 300 plastic bags annually, only 10% of these were recycled.[317] A plastic bag charge was introduced on 1 January 2018,[118] initially of 4 cents per bag, then increased to 7 cents on 1 January 2019.[318] Greece passed further legislation to discourage use of single-use plastics on 1 July 2021, including a ban on merchants from ordering and selling single-use plastic bags and serviceware.[319]


Ireland introduced a €0.15 tax in March 2002. Levied on consumers at the point of sale, this led to 90% of consumers using long-life bags within a year. This tax geared to change the behavior of consumers while still allowing them to choose if they want to pay an extra fee for plastic bags.[134] The tax was increased to €0.22 in 2007. The revenue is put into an Environment Fund, which is to be used for environmental projects; this is a major reason that consumers support this tax.[133][134] A study was done to look at how consumers responded to the tax at checkout and 60% were neutral over the cost while 14% of respondent were "positive" to the extra charge and 26% responded negatively.[134]


The Moldovan parliament passed legislation gradually beginning the phase-out of plastic bags from January 2019, with a full ban coming into force from 1 January 2021.[170]


The Netherlands implemented a comprehensive ban on free plastic shopping bags on 1 January 2016. The ban has a small number of exemptions for unpacked food products which are exposed to possible contamination, such as fresh fruit. The target price for a plastic bag is €0.25.[181]


A plastic recycling levy was introduced on 1 January 2018. Single-use plastic bags cost a minimum of  0.25 (inclusive of VAT), however stores are able to charge a higher amount.[210] The Polish government estimated that the levy would bring 1.1 billion złoty to the state budget in 2018, in addition to approx. 250 million złoty of VAT revenue raised on sales of the bags.[320]


Portugal has implemented a plastic bag tax amounting to 10 cents (€) on single-use carrier bags, which led to a reduction of 90% in their use.[211] However, many retailers started selling thicker (reusable) plastic bags, which are not subject to the tax, for the same amount. Before the Portuguese government implemented this plastic bag tax, some supermarkets in Portugal had already implemented a 2 cent (€) fee on each plastic bag.[321] In Madeira Island where supermarkets implemented this bag fee, there was a 64% reduction in plastic bag consumption.[321]


A law was introduced in 2006 (law 578/2006) – and was later modified in 2011 (law 1032/2011) – that put a mandatory tax on non-biodegradable plastic bags. A modification in 2011 reduced the tax on plastic bags and was regarded by some as a step backwards from environmental protection.[322] Lightweight plastic bags were banned on 1 January 2019.[96]


Serbia has a tax on manufacturers and importers of plastic bags[219] and plans to introduce a ban on lightweight plastic bags and a charge on biodegradable bags in order to reduce bag use to under 90 per person by 2019.[323] Major supermarkets began charging 2 dinars per bag in 2018.[324]


Spain introduced a plastic bag charge on 1 July 2018.[233] Catalonia has had a bag charge since April 2017.[96][325]


In 2016, the two largest chains of supermarkets in Switzerland, the Federation of Migros Cooperatives and Coop, announced that they will progressively stop to distribute free plastic bags (at the check-out).[238] Both distributors announced that they will not make money with paid bags, but that profits from their sale will be invested in environmental projects.[240]

Migros previously tested the measure in the Canton of Vaud since 2013: they reduced the number of plastic bags distributed by ninety percent (and saved 100,000 francs per year).[238][239] Migros will be the first to introduce the measure across the country, on 1 November 2016 (the bags will be made with recycled plastic and cost 0.05 Swiss francs each).[238][239] Coop plans to introduce this in 2017.[240]

United Kingdom[edit]

The Climate Change Act 2008 served as the legislative framework for the regulation of plastic bags in the United Kingdom.[326]

In May 2021 it was announced that the charge for single-use plastic bags in the United Kingdom would double from 5p to 10p from 21 May 2021.[327]

In July 2022, it was reported that plastic bag usage among the main retailers in the UK had declined 97% since 2014, with a great share of the decline occurring after the 5p charge was introduced in 2015.[328][329]


Wales introduced a legal minimum charge of 5 pence for almost all single use bags in October 2011. Paper and biodegradable bags are included in the charge as well as plastic bags, with only a few specific exemptions – such as for unpackaged food or medicine supplied on an NHS prescription. VAT raised from the charge is collected by the government. Retailers are asked to pass the rest of the proceeds on to charities.[263] July 2012 statistics released by the Welsh Government suggested that carrier bag use in Wales had reduced 96% since the introduction of the charge.[330]

Northern Ireland[edit]

Northern Ireland introduced a 5 pence levy on almost all single use bags on 8 April 2013. The levy was extended to reusable carrier bags with a retail price of less than 20 pence from 19 January 2014[259] as data from a number of retailers indicated that reusable bag sales had increased by 800% since the introduction of the levy on single use bags. The proceeds of the levy (£4.17m in 2013/14) are paid to the Department of the Environment and used to fund local environmental projects and enforce the levy. Official statistics for the Northern Ireland levy show that the number of single use bags dispensed fell from around 300 million in 2012/13 to 84.5 million in 2013/14 – a reduction of 72%.[331]


A five pence minimum charge for single-use carrier bags came into force in Scotland on 20 October 2014. This was enacted as a statutory instrument under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, rather than a UK wide act.[332] The proceeds of the charge can be used by the retailers as they see fit,[261] although retailers are encouraged to pledge to donate proceeds to "good causes".[333] The charge is not exclusive to plastic bags, and includes biodegradable bags, such as paper.[261] Bags for unpackaged food, loose seeds, soil-contaminated goods, axes, knives or blades; drugs or medical appliances; small packaged uncooked fish, meat or poultry; aquatic animals; purchases made in aerodrome security restricted areas; or goods bought on board a ship, train, aircraft, coach or bus are exempt from the charge.[334]


England was the last country in the United Kingdom to adopt the 5 pence charge,[257] with the levy taking effect on 5 October 2015.[335] Prior to the introduction of plastic bag regulations, various retailers participated in voluntary actions to reduce plastic bag consumption.[336]

Unlike the rest of the UK, the English charge does not apply to paper bags or bags made from other natural materials. As with the other nations, VAT raised on sales will be collected by the Government. Retailers can choose how the money raised from bag sales is used. The Government publishes information yearly on the scheme, encouraging retailers to donate the proceeds to charities.[337][338]

In the first 6 months, 640 million plastic bags were used in seven major supermarkets in England, raising £29.2 million for good causes.[339] England reported to have distributed 0.6 billion single-use bags during the first half year of the charge,[340] 7 billion fewer than were distributed in 2014.[341] A longitudinal evaluation of the English Plastic Bag Charge found that the charge had a positive effect upon all demographic groups, with a reduction in single-use plastic bags found among all income groups, all age groups, and both men and women.[342] In addition, the study found that public support for the plastic bag charge increased just one month after it was introduced, and people who increased their support for the bag charge were also more likely to increase their support for other policies aimed at reducing plastic waste, suggesting a 'spillover' effect for policy support.[342]

Retailers with fewer than 250 employees were initially exempt from the charge.[343] Opponents of this exemption argued that it would reduce the environmental impact of the charge.[344] In response to this criticism, in the UK government announced plans to extend the charge to all retailers and double it to 10p, which was expected to come into effect in April 2021.[345] The 10p plastic bag charge went into effect for all businesses in England on 21 May 2021.[328]

North America[edit]

The Bahamas[edit]

The Bahamian government banned single-use plastics (including light-weight plastic bags) in 2020, following a campaign by the Bahamas Plastic Movement (BPM), an environmental non-profit organization, which used citizen science-based research, public education and youth campaigns to lobby the government.[346]


In March 2007, the small town of Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, became the first community in North America to ban bags.[347]

The Toronto City Council voted on 6 June 2012, to ban plastic bags effective 1 January 2013, and to scrap the city's five-cent bag fee starting 1 July 2012.[348] Industry groups have convinced city officials to include a grace period between 1 January 2013, and 30 June 2013, when no fines, only warnings, can be issued.[349] The bag ban and five cent fee (six cents with HST) have both been overturned as of 28 November 2012 and it's up to individual retailers if they want to charge for plastic bags.[350] Most stores, with the exception of a few national retailers do not charge.

The Canadian government planned to ban single-use plastics in 2021, including plastic straws, cotton swabs, stirrers, plates, cutlery, and balloon sticks.[351] Implementation of the ban was postponed to 20 December 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[352][71]

Local laws governing plastic bag use in Canada
Province/Territory Municipality Passage date Effective date Effect
Alberta Alberta Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo 10 April 2010 10 September 2010 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban. Reusable bags must be at least 2.25 mils.[353]
British Columbia British Columbia Victoria 17 December 2017 1 July 2018 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[354]
Manitoba Manitoba
Leaf Rapids 22 March 2007 2 April 2007 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[355]
Thompson 27 September 2010 31 December 2010 Single-use polyethylene bag ban. Reusable bags must be 2.25 mils thick.[356]
New Brunswick New Brunswick
Dieppe 10 June 2019 1 October 2020 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[357][358]
Moncton 1 October 2020 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[357][358]
Riverview 10 June 2019 1 October 2020 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[357][358]
Newfoundland and Labrador Newfoundland and Labrador Province-wide 9 April 2019 1 October 2020 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[359][360]
Northwest Territories Northwest Territories Territory-wide 1 February 2011 Single-use plastic shopping bag charge of 25c.[361]
Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Province-wide 30 October 2019 30 October 2020 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[362]
Nunavut Nunavut Baker Lake 3 June 2021 3 June 2021 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[363]
Prince Edward Island Prince Edward Island Province-wide July 2019 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[364]
Quebec Quebec
Brossard 16 February 2016 1 September 2016 Single-use plastic bag ban (including compostable)[365][366]
Deux-Montagnes 2009 Plastic bag ban[367]
Huntingdon 2008 Plastic bag ban including bags used for newspapers and flyers[367]
Montreal 23 August 2016 1 January 2018 Ban of plastic bags including biodegradable. Reusable bags must be at least 50 microns thickness.[368]
Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Regina 31 May 2020 1 February 2022 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban effective following COVID-19 pandemic.[369]
Yukon Yukon
Province-wide 1 January 2022 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[370]
Carmacks 1 August 2019 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[371]


A few municipalities in Guatemala have banned plastic bags, including San Pedro La Laguna, Acatenango, Villa Canales, San Miguel Petapa and Totonicapán.[372][373][374][375][376]


On 17 September 2018, the Jamaican Cabinet announced a total ban on the importation, manufacture, distribution and use of single-use plastic bags, effective 1 January 2019.[141] The policy came in response to problems of improper disposal leading to drain clogging and expensive clean-up efforts.[377] They phased single use plastic bags in waves, the most recent of which took effect 1 January 2021.[378]


Plastic bags are banned in the following states: Baja California, Mexico City, Colima, Durango, Hidalgo, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, Sonora, Tabasco, Veracruz, Yucatán and Zacatecas.[164]


Panama's Assembly has passed legislation banning plastic bags.[379] The law was passed in 2018 and came into force on 20 July 2019, while wholesalers had until January 2020 to phase out their existing stock.[200]

United States[edit]

Phase out of lightweight plastic bags in the United States (laws in GU, ME, NY, VT passed but not in effect yet not shown on map)
  Plastic bags banned
  A charge on some plastic bags
  Partial charge or ban (county or municipality level)

There is no national plastic bag fee or ban currently in effect in the United States. However, the states of California,[380] Connecticut (July 2021), Delaware (2021), Hawaii (de facto), Maine (January 2021),[381] New Jersey (May 2022),[382] New York,[383] Oregon, Vermont (July 2020)[384] and Washington (2021)[385] and the territories of American Samoa, Guam (2021), Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico[386] have banned disposable bags. By September 2018, about 350 counties and municipalities had enacted ordinances either imposing a fee on plastic bags or banning them outright,[387] including all counties in Hawaii.[388] Other attempts at banning plastic shopping bags statewide (for example in Massachusetts, though as of August 2019, 122 cities and towns in the state have done so)[389][390]) have not succeeded mainly due to plastic industry lobbying.[391] A few jurisdictions have chosen to implement a fee-only approach to bag reduction such as Connecticut, Washington, D.C. and adjacent Montgomery County, Maryland.[392] Some US states, such as Florida and Arizona, have passed laws preventing local municipalities from passing their own bans.[393]



Although there is no nationwide ban on lightweight bags, they are banned in all states and territories.[44] Coles Bay, Tasmania was the first location in Australia to ban lightweight plastic bags.[394] The introduction of the "Zero Waste" program in South Australia led to its lightweight bag ban in October 2008. It is estimated that 400 million bags are saved each year.[395] Western Australia and Queensland banned them in July 2018 and Victoria introduced a ban in November 2019.[38][39][40]

In Australia, 6 billion HDPE bags were used in 2002.[3] Usage reduced to 5.6 billion in 2004,[4] and 3.9 billion in 2007.[3]

After the two biggest supermarket chains in Australia banned single-use plastic grocery bags, the consumption of plastic bags in Australia dropped by 80% in three months.[396]

New Zealand[edit]

In 2018, the Labour government pledged to phase out single-use plastic bags within a year's time. New Zealand is one of the highest producers of urban waste in the developed world, per capita, according to OECD data. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage made the announcement on 10 August 2018.[397] On 18 December 2018, the Labour Government announced that all plastic shopping bags, including biodegradable, compostable, and oxy-gradable bags, that have handles with a thickness of less than 70 microns, will be banned from 1 July 2019.[186] Retailers who do not comply could face fines of up to NZD$100,000 (£51,000).[398]

Since 1 October 2022, PVC food trays, polystyrene takeaway and drink packaging, expanded polystyrene food and drink packaging, plastic with pro-degradent additives, plastic drink stirrers and plastic stemmed cotton buds have been banned. On 1 July 2023, plastic produce bags; plastic plates, bowls and cutlery; plastic straws (except for medical reasons) and plastic produce labels were banned.[399]

South America[edit]


In 2012, the Buenos Aires city government allowed supermarkets to charge for plastic bags in order to discourage their use, which is said to have reduced their use by 50%.[400] In 2016 the city announced a full ban on the distribution of plastic bags in supermarkets and hypermarkets, commencing 1 January 2017.[401][402]

In 2009 the Governor of Buenos Aires Province, Daniel Scioli, approved Law 13868,[403] which mandated that by the end of that year, all non-biodegradable plastic bags should be phased out in favour of degradable materials.[404][405]

Other provinces like Neuquén, Chubut, Río Negro and cities like Rosario, Villa Gesell or Bariloche had already banned the distribution of plastic bags in supermarkets as well.[36]


In May 2018, the House of Representatives voted for a gradual phaseout of plastic bags from retailers nationwide.[406][407][408][409] In August 2018, the legislation was approved by Congress and the President,[410] making Chile the first Latin American country to ban plastic bags. Beginning on 3 August 2018, each purchase could be accompanied by no more than two plastic bags. Under the legislation, six months later, supermarkets and large retail businesses were not permitted to provide plastic bags at all, and on 3 August 2020 the total ban also began to apply to small businesses. Environment minister Carolina Schmidt said it is believed that the law eliminated the use of billions of plastic bags.[411]

Before the nationwide ban, similar rules existed regionally. As of 2017, some 80 municipalities already restricted plastic bag distribution, while some coastal and lakeside areas had banned plastic bags altogether.[412]


As of 2015, Colombia planned to reduce the use of plastic bags by 80% by the year 2020 and to eliminate their use by the year 2025.[413] On 29 April 2016, the Ministry of Environment passed a resolution banning plastic bags under 30 cm by 30 cm.[414]

From 1 July 2017, the Colombian Government applies a tax of 20 pesos per plastic bag, with a planned annual increase of 10 pesos per bag until 2020.[85]

A challenge has been the single-use plastic that accompanies grocery and restaurant delivery; these services were in high demand during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.[415]


In 2018, the Uruguayan Parliament approved the law No19655[265] that banned the production, importation and commercialization of all non-biodegradable single-use plastic bags throughout the country. Since 1 July 2019 only biodegradable bags are allowed for commercial use, with a tax of 4 pesos per bag. According to government agencies, just days after the law was approved, the use of plastic bags dropped by 80%, marking a huge success for the regulation.[416]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]



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Further reading[edit]