Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a bill Wednesday that prohibits the sale of single-use plastic bags in 102 coastal villages and towns in a bid to stop the build-up of ocean plastic and to "[take] care of our marine ecosystems."
Businesses found using and distributing plastic bags could face a US$300 fine, Telesur reported about the legislation.
In addition to banning plastic bags, the Chilean government plans to create 1.6 million square kilometers of marine conservation areas by 2018, AFP reported. The bill also welcomes non-coastal areas to join in the program to restrict or eliminate plastic bags.
"Our fish are dying from plastics ingestion or strangulation—it's a task in which everyone must collaborate," Bachelet said in a speech at the beach resort city of Pichilemu.
According to the Environment Ministry (via Bloomberg BNA), Chile goes through more than 3.4 billion plastic bags per year, with 97 percent ending up in landfills, becoming illegally dumped, or ending up in oceans.
"We will ... become the first country in the Americas to implement a law of this type and we call on other countries to assume this responsibility," Bachelet said last month at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Bloomberg BNA also noted that 50 of Chile's 345 municipal districts have already regulated plastic bag usage to some degree, including banning shops from providing plastic bags, limiting the number of bags a customer can receive, or encouraging stores to switch to reusable bags.
Environmental advocates praised the ban. "We hope that parliamentarians will support this initiative which is good for the country," said Ricardo Bosshard, the head of World Wildlife Fund Chile.
On social media, many cheered the move with the hashtag #chaobolsasplásticas, or "bye plastic bags."
Enrique Peña Nieto, the President of Mexico, thanked Bachelet for her work and said that Mexico will join Chile in the effort to protect the biodiversity of our seas.
Erik Solheim, the head of the United Nations Environment Program tweeted, "Great news from Chile! A ban plastic bags in over 100 coastal areas!"
The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.
By Shana Udvardy
After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.