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6 Plastic Bag Bans Making a Huge Difference

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6 Plastic Bag Bans Making a Huge Difference

By Fiona Nicholls

Good news! Plastics bans across the world have been hitting the headlines lately.

From the U.S. to India to Morocco, governing bodies are taking control of the plastic pollution problem, bringing in either complete bans on plastic or bans on specific forms like polystyrene.

1. Karnataka, India

In March this year, the Indian state of Karnataka completely banned the use of plastic across the state. No wholesale dealer, retailer or trader can now use or sell plastic carrier bags, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic spoons, cling film or anything of the sort. Since the ban came into effect four months ago 39,000kg of illegal plastic has been seized from Bengalaru, the state capital.

They even made sure to ban microbeads while they were at it! Go Karnataka!

2. The U.S. (Okay, So There's a Few Places in the U.S.)

Back in 2007, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban plastic shopping bags and in 2014, the city banned plastic water bottles on city properties. Last month, San Francisco joined Los Angeles and Portland and enforced a ban on styrofoam. Styrofoam is the material used for packaging peanuts, the contents of beans bags (do people still have bean bags?). It's expanded polystyrene, also known as thermocol.

Polystyrene is a problem plastic because it's very difficult to recycle. In the U.S., it's largely used for packaging eggs, meats and fruit and so a ban on this particular form of plastic will have a larger impact that you may first think.

In July 2015, Honolulu, Hawaii introduced a ban on single use plastic bags (with small exceptions, e.g. for medical use). The bill was passed by County Councils, rather than by the state legislature, which was a real victory for the local grassroots organizations. People power!

3. Coles Bay, Tasmania

Leading the way back in 2003, Coles Bay, Tasmania was the first town in Australia to ban disposable plastic bags. During the first year of the ban 350,000 fewer plastic bags were used in the area.

4. Ethiopia

In 2011, Ethiopia passed a ban preventing the manufacture and import of disposable (aka single use) plastic shopping bags. This ban was in conjunction with a decision to develop wind power and geothermal energy projects, as part of Ethiopia's Green Growth Strategy.

5. France

Last month, France brought in a ban on single-use plastic bags ('less than 10L capacity' and with a thickness of less than 50 microns, you know ... microns!), like the ones handed out by major supermarkets globally. This is part of a wider EU crackdown on plastic use, acknowledging that plastic has a major impact on the environment and must be addressed.

6. Morocco

Morocco is (or was) the world's second largest consumer of plastic bags after the U.S.. Their ban is pretty comprehensive, it includes a stop on the production, import, sale and distribution of plastic bags, prompting a major rush on plastic bag stockpiling just before coming into effect. The resistance to the ban shows just how ingrained plastic and plastic bags are in our day-to-day habits and highlights the importance of a ban. Go Morocco!

These are just a few of the main plastics bans in place across the world, which is great, so why is it important? Plastic in the oceans is a real problem, already, huge gyres swirl with polluting plastic. And we've seen the dire consequences of marine life mistaking plastics for food. Greenpeace is campaigning hard to end plastic pollution in our oceans. Add your name to the Plastics Pledge to help cut plastic pollution!

Fiona Nicholls is an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace UK.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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