A Nationwide Ban on Plastic Bags Was Just Passed By Chile And We Are Here For It
Plastic is everywhere—even in places it was never supposed to end up. Plastic is a major source of pollution all over the world, and because it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, there is no easy fix to our plastic problem. When plastic waste does not make it to a landfill, it can destroy the natural habitats of many species, and it can be particularly harmful to marine life. Everyday items like plastic bags can do serious damage to our oceans. Animals like turtles, whales, and birds may mistake them for jellyfish and eat them because of their appearance and smell.
To tackle our society’s dependence on plastic and help save our environment, some world leaders are cracking down on plastic bags. Chile made headlines this month when they became the first country in the Americas to ban the use of plastic bags. All major retailers and large chain stores will have one year to phase out plastic shopping bags and find a suitable replacement, while small businesses will have two years. The goal is for all stores to be using environmentally-friendly options by 2020. Above all, the government hopes that within the next six months, corporate chains will already be providing alternatives.
While this represents a big change for some businesses, this new policy has proven to be very popular so far. The Chamber of Deputies passed the bill with 134 “Yes” votes to only one abstention, showing that the government is essentially united in their support for the ban, and surveys show that 95% of Chileans are in favor of the new law. Initially, the government only planned to restrict the use of plastic bags in coastal communities and the Patagonia region of southern Chile. Due to widespread support for the ban, the legislation was expanded to cover the whole country.
(Source: commons.wikimedia.org Mark Scott Johnson)
Currently, more than 50 communities in Chile already have local laws intended to reduce the use of plastic bags. The government plans to take this ban very seriously with a hefty fine of up to $230,000 for offenders. This may seem like a high penalty, but you cannot put a price on our environment. After all, we only have one planet!
Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, says the government is taking this issue on how to keep our planet beautiful for future generations. “We have taken a fundamental step to take better care of Chile and the planet,” he stated. “Today we are more prepared to leave a better planet to our children, grandchildren and the generations to come.”
Chile is not the only country that has decided to swap out plastic bags for sustainable replacements like reusable canvas totes. Bangladesh implemented a plastic bag ban in 2002, and Rwanda followed suit in 2008. Most recently, Kenya also passed a ban on plastic bags in August 2017. And the pushback against plastic does not stop there: the European Commission is now considering restricting the use of single-use plastics like straws, plates, and cutlery. If we continue to reduce our use of plastic we could be on our way to a plastic-free future.