Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Chile to Become First Country in the Americas to Ban Plastic Bags

Oceans

Chile is set to become the first country in the Americas to ban plastic bags to help protect the environment and especially the ocean.

Congress unanimously approved the measure on Wednesday. The bill was initially designed to outlaw plastic bags in Patagonia, but was later extended nationwide.


President Sebastian Piñera celebrated the news.

"We have taken a fundamental step to take better care of Chile and the planet. Today we are more prepared to leave a better planet to our children, grandchildren and the generations to come," he tweeted Wednesday.

Erik Solheim, the head of the United Nations Environment Program, also offered congratulations to the South American country. He called the move a "bold step" ahead of World Environment Day this June 5, which has the theme "Beat Plastic Pollution."

The law will apply to all major retailers within a year, while smaller businesses have two years to comply, The Santiago Times reported. Before entering into force, all retailers are allowed to provide a maximum of only two plastic bags to consumers for their purchases.

Climate Action reported that municipalities will be in charge of implementing the new law, which can carry a fine of up to $230,000 for offenders.

The bag ban is not as extreme as it may sound. The Environment Ministry's website, chaobolsasplasticas.cl, shows that Congress members have worked on this initiative for about a decade. The vast majority (about 95 percent) of surveyed Chileans across all age groups approved of the plastic bag ban. There are also 78 communes in the country that already have measures regulating the usage of plastic bags.

In October, former president Michelle Bachelet signed a bill that prohibits the sale of single-use plastic bags in coastal villages and towns.

"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 of the initiative at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

According to the Association of Plastic Manufacturers (Asiplas), Chile uses more than 3.4 billon plastic bags annually, or roughly 200 bags per person per year. About 97 percent of those plastic bags end up in landfills or in oceans, where they take centuries to degrade.

Worldwide, an estimated eight million tons of plastic trash gets dumped into our oceans each year, literally choking marine life, harming ocean ecosystems and threatening the larger food chain.

This is a landmark piece of legislation for both South and North America. The Santiago Times noted that a number of states and municipalities in the U.S. and Canada have similar bans but none on the national level yet. But Costa Rica announced in August that it wants to be the first country in the world to ban all single-use plastics by 2021.

Elsewhere around the globe, Rwanda and Kenya have enforced complete bans on plastic bags. In 2002, Bangladesh became the world's first country to ban the items.

One of the beavers released into England's Somerset county this January, which has now helped build the area's first dam in more than 400 years. Ben Birchall / PA Images via Getty Images

England's Somerset county can now boast its first beaver dam in more than 400 years.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Australia's dingo fences, built to protect livestock from wild dogs, stretch for thousands of miles. Marian Deschain / Wikimedia

By Alex McInturff, Christine Wilkinson and Wenjing Xu

What is the most common form of human infrastructure in the world? It may well be the fence. Recent estimates suggest that the total length of all fencing around the globe is 10 times greater than the total length of roads. If our planet's fences were stretched end to end, they would likely bridge the distance from Earth to the Sun multiple times.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Hopi blue corn is being affected by climate change. Abrahami / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

Climate change is making ancient Hopi farming nearly impossible, threatening not just the Tribe's staple food source, but a pillar of its culture and religion, the Arizona Republic reports.

Read More Show Less
Pollution on the Ganges River. Kaushik Ghosh / Moment Open / Getty Images

The most polluted river in the world continues to be exploited through fishing practices that threaten endangered wildlife, new research shows.

Read More Show Less
Oil spills, such as the one in Mauritius in August 2020, could soon be among the ecological crimes considered ecocide. - / AFP / Getty Images

By Kenny Stancil

An expert panel of top international and environmental lawyers have begun working this month on a legal definition of "ecocide" with the goal of making mass ecological damage an enforceable international crime on par with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Read More Show Less