Phase-out of lightweight plastic bags

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In the early 21st century, there has been a global movement towards the phase-out of lightweight plastic bags.[1][2] Single-use plastic shopping bags, commonly made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic,[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.

Governments all over the world have taken action to ban 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 1 August 2019, such bans have been introduced in 72 countries, with varying degrees of enforcement, and 35 countries instead impose a charge per bag. Bans and charges have also been enacted by some local jurisdictions such as states, counties, territories and cities.

Issues[edit]

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, three months' exposure outdoors.

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 habitat of marine creatures.[3]

Two primary kinds of direct damage to wildlife are entanglement and ingestion.[8] Animals can become entangled and drown.[9] 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.[9] 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[citation needed] 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.[10] The term "white pollution" has been coined in China to describe the local and global effects of discarded plastic bags upon the environment.[11]

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.[12] Research shows the average operating "lifespan" of a plastic bag to be approximately 20 minutes.[citation needed] Plastic bags can last in landfill – an anaerobic environment – for up to 1000 years.[citation needed]

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.[13] 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.[14]

Methods[edit]

The two most popular methods of phasing out lightweight plastic bags are charges and bans.[7] The charge strategy is said 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.[15] The plastic bag charge method also protects consumer choice, which the ban does not.[15]

Recycling of plastic bags can be another method of phase-out. However, a big issue with recycling is that only 5% of plastic bags make it to recycling facilities, to begin with.[15] Even when bags are brought to these recycling bins and facilities, they often fly out of these bins or recycling trucks and end up as litter on the streets. If there are any facilities of avoiding the plastics from flying out this would be a better method [16] Another issue with recycling is that different bags are made from different yet aesthetically similar types of plastics.[15] Bags can be either made of bioplastics or biodegradable plastics, and if accidentally combined in a compost, the bioplastics could contaminate the biodegradable composting.[15] These bags can also jam recycling equipment when mixed with other types of plastic, which can be costly to repair.[16] For example, costs of repairs rounded out to be about $1 million per year in San Jose, California.[16]

Individuals can also engage in advocacy with local officials and local merchants. With the rise in eco-tourism [17] and green travel, there are many opportunities to say no to plastic.[18]

Impact[edit]

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.[19] 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 74-90% 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.[20] The study showed that before the introduction of the ban between 12% and 22% of plastic carryout bags were re-used as trash bags.[20]

Plastic bag bans can lead to larger black markets in plastic bags.[7] 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. Further, the bans can drive significant increases in sales of trash bags; these trash bags are thicker and thus use more plastic than typical store-issued bags.[7][21]:1[22]:254[22]:270

Summary of regional developments[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)
Key Country Continent Legislation Notes References
 Afghanistan Asia Ban [23]
 Albania Europe Ban Since 2018. [24]
 Andorra Europe Ban Since 2017. [25]
 Antigua and Barbuda North America Ban [26]
 Argentina South America Regional ban Banned in several provinces and cities. [27]
 Armenia Europe Charge from 2020. Ban from 2022. [28]
 Australia Oceania Regional ban Lightweight plastic bags banned in all states except New South Wales. Lightweight plastic bags were swapped out for reusable thick 15¢ bags in the two major supermarket chains in all states and territories including New South Wales. Norfolk Island has a voluntary agreement with retailers. [29][30][31][32][33]
 Austria Europe Voluntary charge Ban planned for 2020. [34][35]
 Azerbaijan Europe Ban planned. [36]
 Bahamas North America Charge planned for 2020. [37]
 Bahrain Asia Ban Since 21 July 2019. [38]
 Bangladesh Asia Ban Since 2002. [39]
 Barbados North America Ban Since April 2019. [40]
 Belarus Europe Charge is being considered. [41]
 Belgium Europe Ban Since 2016 in Wallonia, 2017 in Brussels, 2019 in Flanders. [42][43]
 Belize North America Ban Since 22 April 2019 (Earth Day). [44]
 Benin Africa Ban Since November 2017. [45]
 Bhutan Asia Ban [46]
 Bolivia South America Regional ban Banned in La Paz. [47]
 Bosnia and Herzegovina Europe Charge [23]
 Botswana Africa Ban Since November 2018. [48]
 Brazil South America Regional ban Banned in Sao Paulo and the State of Rio de Janeiro. [49][50]
 Brunei Asia Voluntary ban [51]
 Bulgaria Europe Charge [52]
 Burkina Faso Africa Ban Since 2015. [53]
 Burundi Africa Ban Since 22 August 2019. [54]
 Cambodia Asia Charge Since October 2017. [55]
 Cameroon Africa Ban Since April 2014. [56]
 Canada North America Regional ban Banned in Prince Edward Island. Bans in several municipalities. Full ban planned for 2021.[57] See section
 Cape Verde Africa Ban Since 2017. [58]
 Chad Africa Regional ban Banned in N'Djamena. [59]
 Chile South America Ban Since February 2019. [60]
 China Asia Ban Since June 2008. Hong Kong and Macau apply a charge. [61][62][63]
 Colombia South America Ban Since July 2017. Charge applied to reusable bags. [64][65]
 Comoros Africa Regional ban Banned in Moroni. [66]
 Costa Rica North America Ban planned for 2021. [67]
 Democratic Republic of the Congo Africa Ban Since 2018. [68]
 Republic of the Congo Africa Ban Since 2011. [69]
 Croatia Europe Charge Since 2019. [70]
 Cyprus Europe Charge Since 2018. [71]
 Czech Republic Europe Charge [72]
 Denmark Europe Charge There is also a tax in Greenland. [34][73]
 Djibouti Africa Ban [23]
 Dominica North America Ban Since 2019. [74]
 Ecuador South America Regional ban Restricts plastic bags around the Galápagos Islands. [75]
 Egypt Africa Regional ban Banned in Red Sea Governorate. [76]
 Eritrea Africa Ban Since 2005. [77]
 Estonia Europe Charge Since July 2017. [34]
 Ethiopia Africa Partial ban [78]
 Fiji Oceania Charge Since August 2017. [79]
 Finland Europe Voluntary charge [80][34]
 France Europe Ban Since July 2016. Also banned in Overseas France. [81][82][83][84][85]
 Gabon Africa Ban Since 2010. [86]
 Gambia Africa Ban Since 2015. [87]
 Georgia Europe Ban Since 2017. [88]
 Germany Europe Voluntary charge. Ban is planned. Since April 2016. [34][89]
 Greece Europe Charge Since 2018. [90]
 Grenada North America Ban Since February 2019. [91]
 Guatemala North America Regional ban Banned in several municipalities. Ban planned for 2021. [92][93][94][95][96][97]
 Guinea-Bissau Africa Ban Since 2016. [98]
 Guyana South America Ban planned for 2021. [99]
 Haiti North America Ban [100]
 Honduras North America Regional ban Banned in the Bay Islands Department. [101]
 Hungary Europe Charge Since 2012. [34]
 Iceland Europe Charge Since July 2019. Ban planned for 2021. [102]
 India Asia Ban Since 2002. Also banned at regional levels due to poor enforcement. [5][103]
 Indonesia Asia Regional bans and charges Charges in 23 cities. Banned in Bali since June 2019. [104][105]
 Ireland Europe Charge 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. [106][107]
 Israel Asia Charge Since January 2017. [108]
 Italy Europe Ban Since January 2011. [109]
 Ivory Coast Africa Ban Since 2014. [110]
 Kenya Africa Ban Since 28 August 2017. [111]
 Latvia Europe Charge Since January 2019. [112]
 Lithuania Europe Charge Since 31 December 2018. [34]
 Luxembourg Europe Charge [34][80]
 Jamaica North America Ban Since January 2019. [113]
 Japan Asia Regional bans and charges National charge from July 2020. [114][115][116]
 Kazakhstan Asia Ban is being considered. [117]
 Kyrgyzstan Asia Ban is being considered. [118]
 Lebanon Asia Regional ban Banned in Byblos. [119]
 Madagascar Africa Ban Since 2015. [120]
 Malawi Africa Ban Since 2015. [121]
 Malaysia Asia Regional charge Charges in two states. [122][123]
 Mali Africa Ban [124]
 Marshall Islands Oceania Ban [125]
 Malta Europe Charge Since 2009. Ban planned for 2022. [34][126]
 Mauritania Africa Ban Since 2013. [127]
 Mauritius Africa Ban Since 2016. [128]
 Mexico North America Regional ban Banned in Mexico City and Querétaro City. [129][130]
 Micronesia Oceania Regional ban Banned in the states of Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap. Ban planned in Chuuk for 31 December 2020. [125][131][132][133]
 Moldova Europe Partial Ban Since 2017 banned in large retailers. Since 2018 banned in medium retailers. Full ban planned for 2020, which will affect small retailers as well. [134]
 Monaco Europe Ban Since 2016. [135]
 Mongolia Asia Ban Since March 2019. [136]
 Montenegro Europe Ban has been proposed. [137]
 Morocco Africa Ban Since July 2016. [138]
 Mozambique Africa Charge Since 5 February 2016. [139]
 Myanmar Asia Regional ban Banned in Yangon. [140]
 Namibia Africa Charge Since August 2019. Banned in protected places. [141][142]
   Nepal Asia Ban [143]
 New Zealand Oceania Ban Since July 2019. Also banned in Niue. Ban planned in the Cook Islands. [144][145][146]
 Netherlands Europe Charge Since 2016. Banned in Aruba. [147][148]
 Niger Africa Ban [149]
 Nigeria Africa Ban [150]
 North Macedonia Europe Charge Since 2009. [151]
 Norway Europe Voluntary charge [152]
 Oman Asia Ban is being planned. [153]
 Pakistan Asia Ban Banned independently in each of the country's provinces and territories from 1994 to 2019. [154][155][156][157]
 Palau Oceania Ban [158]
 Panama North America Ban Since 2017. [159]
 Papua New Guinea Oceania Ban Since 2016. [160][161]
 Peru South America Charge Since August 2019. Ban planned for 2021. [162][163]
 Philippines Asia Regional ban and charges Banned in select cities of Metro Manila, excluding Taguig, Malabon, Caloocan, Valenzuela, Navotas, San Juan, and Parañaque. [164]

[165] [166] [167][168]

 Poland Europe Charge Since 2018. [169]
 Portugal Europe Charge Since 2016. [170]
 Romania Europe Ban Since 2019. [34]
 Russia Europe Ban planned [171]
 Rwanda Africa Ban Since 2008. [172]
 Samoa Oceania Ban Since 2019. [173]
 San Marino Europe Proposed ban failed in 2009. [174]
 Senegal Africa Ban Since April 2015. [175]
 Serbia Europe Charge Since 2018. [176]
 Seychelles Africa Ban Since 2017. [177]
 Slovakia Europe Charge Since March 2017. [34]
 Slovenia Europe Charge Since 2019. [178]
 Sao Tome and Principe Africa Ban planned [179]
 Solomon Islands Oceania Regional ban Banned in Western Province. [180]
 Somalia Africa Regional ban Banned in Somaliland. [181][182][183][184][185]
 South Africa Africa Charge Since 2004. [186][187]
 South Korea Asia Ban Since August 2018. [188]
 South Sudan Africa Ban [189]
 Sri Lanka Asia Ban Since 2017. [190]
 Spain Europe Charge Since July 2018. Banned in Balearic Islands from 2020. [191][192]
 Sudan Africa Regional ban Banned in Khartoum State. [193]
 Sweden Europe Charge [194]
  Switzerland Europe Voluntary charge Geneva will ban bags in 2020. [195][196][197][198]
 Taiwan Asia Charge Since 2003. Ban planned for 2030. [199][200][201][202]
 Tanzania Africa Ban Since June 2019. [203][204]
 Thailand Asia Voluntary ban planned for 2020. Ban planned for 2021. [205][206]
 Togo Africa Ban Since July 2018. [207]
 Tunisia Africa Ban Since March 2017. [208]
 Turkey Europe Charge Also a ban in some regions. Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus also applies a charge. [209][210][211]
 Tuvalu Oceania Ban Since August 2019. [212]
 Uganda Africa Ban Since September 2007. [213]
 Ukraine Europe Charge planned for 2021. Ban planned for 2022. [214]
 United Kingdom Europe Charge Wales since 2011, Northern Ireland since 2013, Scotland since 2014 and England since 2015. Banned in Anguilla, Gibraltar and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Voluntary charge in place in the Falkland Islands. Ban planned in British Indian Ocean Territory and the Isle of Man.
[215][216][217][218][219][220][221][222][223]
 United States North America Regional bans and charges Banned in two states (one de facto) and four territories. Charge in Washington, D.C. Bans and charges in several municipalities. See main article
 Uruguay South America Ban Since July 2019. [224]
 Uzbekistan Asia Charge Since 2019. [225]
 Vanuatu Oceania Ban Since 31 January 2018. [226]
  Vatican City Europe Ban Since 2019. [227]
 Yemen Asia Ban [23]
 Zambia Africa Ban Since December 2018. [228]
 Zimbabwe Africa Ban [23]

Legislation around the world[edit]

Africa[edit]

Kenya[edit]

Kenya tried to ban manufacture and import of plastic bags in the year 2007 and 2011 as a way to protect the environment.[229] The 2007 and 2011 ban intended for plastics below 30 microns failed after manufacturers and retail outlets threatened to pass on the cost of using other materials to consumers.[230] In 2017 the cabinet secretary of Environment and Natural resources, Prof Judy Wakhungu banned use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging under Gazette notice number 2356.[231] 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 having been exempted from the ban. The ban has been hailed to be amongst the most stringent in the world. This includes a decision to imprison anyone involved in the creation or import of plastic bags for upwards of four years or will be forced to pay a fine between $19,000 and $38,000.[111]

Nigeria[edit]

In May 2019, The House of Representatives of Nigeria banned the production, import and usage of plastic bags in the country.[150]

Somalia[edit]

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.[181][182][183][184][185]

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.[186][187]

Tanzania[edit]

The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar banned plastic bags in 2005.[232] Tanzania introduced plans to implement a nationwide ban on plastic bags in 2006.[233] However, its ratification had been delayed for more than ten years.[234] The ban finally came into effect on 1 June 2019.[204]

Tunisia[edit]

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.[208] Tunisian activists are planning awareness campaigns to establish greener policies in the country.[235]

Uganda[edit]

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,[213] they have not been enforced and have failed to measurably reduce the use of plastic bags.[236] The law is not well enforced.[237]

Asia[edit]

Bangladesh[edit]

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.[39] Plastic bags remain a big problem for sewerage system and waterways.

Cambodia[edit]

Cambodia passed the legislation to impose a plastic bag tax in October 2017. Supermarkets now are charging customers 400 Riels (10 US cents) per plastic bag should they need one.[55]

China[edit]

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.[61]

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.[62] 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.

India[edit]

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][103] 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.[238] 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,[239] 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.[240]

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.[241][242] The state of Goa has banned bags up to 40 µm thick,[243] while the city of Mumbai bans bags below a minimum thickness to 50 µm.[244]

The state Government of Maharashtra banned plastic starting 23 June 2018.[245] The state Government of Tamil Nadu also banned plastic starting 1 January 2019.[246]

Indonesia[edit]

Starting in 2016, Environment Ministry enforced retailers in 23 cities across the archipelago (mini-market, hypermarket, and supermarket) to charge consumers for plastic bags between Rp.200 and Rp.5,000 for each bag including degradable plastic bags. And money which came from tax are used by retailers as public funds for waste management alongside non-governmental organizations.[104]

The island of Bali banned single-use plastic bags, straws, and styrofoam effective July, 2019.[247]

Israel[edit]

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.[108] 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%.[248]

Philippines[edit]

The Philippines is the world’s third-largest ocean polluter despite a waste management act coming into effect 18 years ago. Corruption, lack of political will – and the proliferation and accessibility to single-use plastic products are the main challenges in regulating plastics.[249]

In 2010, Muntinlupa became the first local government in the National Capital Region to ban plastic bags and styrofoam in shops.[250] This was soon after followed by cities regulating or imposing bans or charges: Las Piñas (Jan. 2, 2012), Pasig (Jan. 1, 2012), Quezon City (Sept. 1, 2012, bags for a fee), Pasay (Sept. 1, 2012, bags for a fee), Makati (June 30, 2013).[251][252]

Metro Manila cities that have delayed imposing regulations and bans are : Taguig , Caloocan, Malabon, Valenzuela , Navotas, San Juan and Parañaque. These cities happen to be the base of hundreds of plastics and rubber manufacturing companies. In one city, a mayor's family even owns a 60-hectare “Plastic City Industrial” compound.[253]

On July 4, 2019, Senator Francis Pangilinan filed a bill seeking to phase out single-use plastic products by prohibiting its importation, manufacture and use in food establishments, stores, markets, and retailers.[254][255]

Taiwan[edit]

In January 2003, Taiwan banned the free distribution of lightweight plastic bags.[199] 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.[256] In 2006, however, the administration decided to begin allowing free plastic bags to be offered by food service operators.[257] 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.[200][201][202]

Europe[edit]

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.[258] 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 to reduce plastic bag use by 50% by 2017 and 80% by 2019.[259][260]

Denmark[edit]

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.[261] In 2004, a similar law was passed by the Inatsisartut in Greenland, which applied a recycling tax on plastic bags.[73] 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.[262]

Germany[edit]

Germany imposes a fee on excess packaging through its Green Dot program, which included plastic bags.[263] In addition, all stores in Germany that provide plastic bags must pay a recycling tax.[264]

An agreement was signed between trade representatives and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety in April 2016 to reduce plastic bags, excepting thin bags for fruit and vegetables, bags for deep-freeze products and long-term usable bags,[265] resulting in many shops no longer offer such plastic bags free of cost since July 2016. Should the goal not be achieved, it is foreseen that a law may be passed banning shops from handing them out.[266] The political background to this is a recent change to the European directive 94/62/EG that obliges the member states to reduce the yearly number of plastic bags per capita down to maximally 90 by end-2019 and to maximally 40 by end-2025, whereas Germany had been using 70 bags per capita so far.[265]

Greece[edit]

A plastic bag charge was introduced on 1 January 2018.[90] Initially bags cost 4 cents each, which then increased to 7 cents on 1 January 2019.[267]

Ireland[edit]

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.[107] 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.[106][107] 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.[107]

Moldova[edit]

The Moldovan parliament has passed legislation banning plastic bags. It came into force for larger retailers in 2017, came into force for medium-sized retailers on 1 January 2018 and is scheduled for small retailers in 2020.[134]

Netherlands[edit]

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.[147]

Poland[edit]

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.[169] 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.[268]

Portugal[edit]

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.[170] 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.[269] In Madeira Island where supermarkets implemented this bag fee, there was a 64% reduction in plastic bag consumption.[269]

Romania[edit]

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.[270] Lightweight plastic bags were banned on 1 January 2019.[34]

Serbia[edit]

Serbia has a tax on manufacturers and importers of plastic bags[176] 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.[271] Major supermarkets began charging 2 dinars per bag in 2018.[272]

Spain[edit]

Spain introduced a plastic bag charge on 1 July 2018.[191] Catalonia has had a bag charge since April 2017.[34][273]

Switzerland[edit]

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).[195] Both distributors announced that they will not make money with paid bags, but that profits from their sale will be invested in environmental projects.[197]

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).[195][196] 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).[195][196] Coop plans to introduce this in 2017.[197]

United Kingdom[edit]

The Climate Change Act 2008 served as the legislative framework for the regulation of plastic bags in the United Kingdom.[274]

Wales[edit]

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.[215] July 2012 statistics released by the Welsh Government suggested that carrier bag use in Wales had reduced 96% since the introduction of the charge.[264]

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[216] 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%.[275]

Scotland[edit]

A five pence minimum charge for single-use carrier bags came into force in Scotland on 20 October 2014. The proceeds of the charge can be used by the retailers as they see fit,[217] although retailers are encouraged to pledge to donate proceeds to "good causes".[276] The charge is not exclusive to plastic bags, and includes biodegradable bags, such as paper.[217] 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.[277]

England[edit]

England was the last country in the United Kingdom to adopt the 5 pence charge,[218] with the levy taking effect on 5 October 2015.[278] Prior to the introduction of plastic bag regulations, various retailers participated in voluntary actions to reduce plastic bag consumption.[279]

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.[280][281]

In the first 6 months, 640 million plastic bags were used in seven major supermarkets in England, raising £29.2 million for good causes.[282] England reported to have distributed 0.6 billion single-use bags during the first half year of the charge,[283] 7 billion fewer than were distributed in 2014.[284] 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.[285] 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.[285]

To promote the growth of new businesses in England, retailers with fewer than 250 employees are exempt from the charge.[286] Opponents to the exemption of small retailers argued that this exemption would diminish the environmental impact of the charge.[287] In response to this criticism, in the UK government has announced plans to extend the charge to all retailers and double the charge to 10p, which is expected to come into effect in January 2020.[288]

North America[edit]

The Bahamas[edit]

Within the Bahamas, non-legislative approaches have been instituted by The Bahamas Plastic Movement (BPM), an environmental non-profit organization that utilizes research, education, citizen science and policy change as solutions. Through citizen science-based research, public education and youth activism campaigns, this grass roots entity successfully engaged the Bahamian government in enacting legislation for a single-use plastics ban (including light-weight plastic bags), to be implemented in 2020.[289]

Canada[edit]

In March 2007, the small town of Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, became the first community in North America to ban bags.[290]

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.[291] 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.[292] 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.[293] Most stores, with the exception of a few national retailers do not charge.

The Canadian government has plans to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021, the list of items to be banned includes plastic straws, cotton swabs, stirrers, plates, cutlery as well as balloon sticks.[294]

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.[295]
British Columbia British Columbia Victoria 17 December 2017 1 July 2018 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[296]
Manitoba Manitoba
Leaf Rapids 22 March 2007 2 April 2007 Single-use plastic shopping bag.[297]
Thompson 27 September 2010 31 December 2010 Single-use polyethylene bag ban. Reusable bags must be 2.25 mils thick.[298]
Newfoundland and Labrador Newfoundland and Labrador Province-wide 9 April 2019 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[299]
Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Province-wide 30 October 2019 30 October 2020 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[300]
Prince Edward Island Prince Edward Island Province-wide July 2019 Single-use plastic shopping bag ban.[301]
Quebec Quebec
Brossard 16 February 2016 1 September 2016 Single-use plastic bag ban (including compostable)[302][303]
Deux-Montagnes 2009 Plastic bag ban[304]
Huntingdon 2008 Plastic bag ban including bags used for newspapers and flyers[304]
Montreal 23 August 2016 1 January 2018 Ban of plastic bags including biodegradable. Reusable bags must be at least 50 microns thickness.[305]

Guatemala[edit]

A few municipalities in Guatemala have banned plastic bags, including San Pedro La Laguna, Acatenango, Villa Canales, San Miguel Petapa and Totonicapán.[92][93][94][95][96]

Jamaica[edit]

There is a working group examining a state motion to ban plastic bags in Jamaica.[306]

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.[113]

Mexico[edit]

Mexico approved legislation to ban and fine plastic bags in August 2010. However, the legislation is not observed.[307] Mexico City banned plastic bags in 2010, but plastic bags remain one of Mexico's biggest pollution problems.[129] The city of Querétaro banned plastic bags in 2017.[130]

Panama[edit]

Panama's Assembly has passed legislation banning plastic bags.[308] The law was sanctioned by the president in January 2017 and retailers have until January 2020 to phase out their existing stock.[159]

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,[309] Hawaii (de facto), Maine (April 2020),[310] New York (March 2020)[311] and Vermont (July 2020)[312] and the territories of American Samoa, Guam (2021), Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico[313] 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,[314] including all counties in Hawaii.[315] 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)[316][317]) have not succeeded mainly due to plastic industry lobbying.[318] A few jurisdictions have chosen to implement a fee-only approach to bag reduction such as Washington, D.C. and adjacent Montgomery County, Maryland.[319] Some US states, such as Florida and Arizona, have passed laws preventing local municipalities from passing their own bans.[320]

Oceania[edit]

Australia[edit]

Plastic bag bans in Australian states and territories
  Ban in effect (South Australia, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia
  No ban (New South Wales)

Although the nation does not ban lightweight bags, all states except New South Wales do ban them. Coles Bay, Tasmania was the first location in Australia to ban the bag.[321] 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.[322] Western Australia and Queensland banned them in July 2018 and Victoria introduced a ban in November 2019.[29][30][31]

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.[323]

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.[324] 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.[144] Retailers who do not comply could face fines of up to NZD$100,000 (£51,000)[325]

South America[edit]

Argentina[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%.[326] In 2016 the city announced a full ban on the distribution of plastic bags in supermarkets and hypermarkets, commencing 1 January 2017.[327][328]

In 2009 the Governor of Buenos Aires Province, Daniel Scioli, approved Law 13868,[329] which mandated that by the end of that year, all non-biodegradable plastic bags should be phased out in favour of degradable materials.[330][331]

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.[27]

Chile[edit]

Some 80 municipalities have restricted plastic bag distribution, while some coastal and lakeside areas have banned plastic bags altogether.[332] In late May 2018, House of Representatives voted to ban plastic bags from major retailers nationwide, effective in a year, while smaller retailers will have a two-year window to phase out their use of plastic bags, during which time they'll limit two bags per customer.[333][334][335][336] In August 2018, the legislation was approved by Congress and the President.[337]

Colombia[edit]

Colombia plans to reduce the use of plastic bags by 80% by the year 2020, and completely eliminate their use by the year 2025.[338] On 29 April 2016, the Ministry of Environment passed a resolution banning plastic bags under 30 cm by 30 cm.[339]

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.[64]

Uruguay[edit]

In 2018, the Uruguayan Parliament approved the law Nº19655[224] that banned the production, importation and commercialization of all non-biodegradable single-use plastic bags in all 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, in the first days following the approval of the law the use of plastic bags quickly dropped in 80%, marking a huge success for the reglamentation.[340]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]