Quantcast
Animals
Plastic bag or jellyfish? Sea turtles looking for food can have trouble telling the difference. Saving The Waves / Instagram

Plastic Bag Bans Actually Work, Study of European Waters Shows

If you ever feel like the world's plastic nightmare might never end, a new study shows proof that plastic pollution legislation actually works.

There are significantly fewer plastic bags on the seafloor ever since a number of European countries introduced fees on the items, according to a 25-year study from the UK government's Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS).


Researchers found an estimated 30 percent drop in the number of plastic bags in waters around Norway, Germany, northern France and Ireland.

"It is encouraging to see that efforts by all of society, whether the public, industry, NGOs or government to reduce plastic bags are having an effect," Thomas Maes, Marine Litter Scientist at CEFAS, said in a statement.

"We observed sharp declines in the percentage of plastic bags as captured by fishing nets trawling the seafloor around the UK compared to 2010 and this research suggests that by working together we can reduce, reuse and recycle to tackle the marine litter problem."

Ireland and Denmark were the first two countries to introduce levies for single-use plastic bags in 2003. A number of European countries followed. In 2015, England became the last country in the UK to introduce a fee.

The study, published in the journal Science of The Total Environment, was based on 39 independent scientific surveys of the distribution and abundance of marine litter on seabeds of the North Sea, English Channel, Celtic Sea and Irish Sea between 1992 and 2017.

Plastic trash such as bags, bottles and fishing debris were commonly observed over the entire 25-year period, with 63 percent of the 2,461 trawls containing at least one plastic litter item.

In a statement, Richard Harrington from the Marine Conservation Society said the decrease in the number of plastic bags recorded in the surveys is "very encouraging."

"It shows that fiscal measures can work—charging for what was once a free item, often used just once and thrown away, has had a real influence on consumer behavior without genuinely hurting people in the pocket," Harrington said.

However, even though fewer plastic bags were recorded, the researchers found widespread distribution of other plastic items on the seafloor. They also noted a significant upward trend of fishing debris.

This means plastic bag legislation is merely a start in reducing the 8 million tons of plastic waste that gets dumped into our oceans every year.

As WWF UK tweeted, "Great to see less plastic bags in our oceans, but we need the government to put an end to the use of all avoidable single-use plastic by 2025."

In March, the UK government released a startling report warning that plastic pollution in the world's oceans is projected to increase three-fold within seven years unless action is taken.

The Future of the Sea report found that human beings across the globe produce more than 300 million metric tons of plastic per year. Unfortunately, a lot of that material ends up in our waters, with the total amount of plastic debris in the sea predicted to increase from 50 million metric tons in 2015 to 150 million metric tons by 2025.

To solve this plastic epidemic, the authors suggested solutions that range from preventing plastic from entering the sea, introducing new biodegradable plastics, and campaigns that raise public awareness about marine protection.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Animals
Rangers tranquilized a bear cub to free him from a plastic jar. Maryland Department of Natural Resources - Wildlife & Heritage Service

Rangers Free Bear Cub From Plastic Jar After Three-Day Search

A Maryland bear cub got himself into a sticky situation over the weekend.

The 100-pound male bear earned himself the nickname "Buckethead" when he got his head stuck in a plastic jar in search of a tasty snack, BBC News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Arkhip Vereshchagin / TASS / Getty Images

Trump Admin Plans to Use West Coast Military Bases to Ship Coal, Natural Gas

The Trump administration is considering using military bases to export coal and natural gas as a way to override state opposition to building private export terminals, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke told the AP.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
San Juan National Forest. Scrubhiker (USCdyer) / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Trump Plan to Ramp Up Fracking, Mining in National Forests Threatens Climate

The Trump administration's plan to make it easier for industry to frack and mine in national forests would endanger the climate, wildlife and watersheds, the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups said in comments submitted Monday to the U.S. Forest Service.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
A tree falling on a power line ignites a fire in Colesville, MD on June 13, 2013. A California utility cut power to 60,000 customers to prevent a wildfire sparking from an incident like this. Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Power Cut to 60,000 in Northern California to Prevent Wildfires

Major California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) shut off power to 60,000 Northern California residents Sunday night in an attempt to reduce the risk of wildfires sparking from hot, dry windy weather, the Huffington Post reported Tuesday.

A total of 100,000 people were warned their power might be cut off due to wind speeds of 60 miles per hour and gusts of 70 miles per hour increasing the risk of electrical fires.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
A pipeline fire in Nigeria in 2006 caused, like an explosion Friday, by pipeline vandalism. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP / Getty Images

60 Dead in Nigerian Pipeline Explosion

A fire that ignited at a Nigerian oil pipeline Friday has now claimed 60 lives, Reuters reported Monday.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
Pxhere

World Food Day: 4 Easy Ways to Make a Difference

On World Food Day, observed every year on Oct. 16, we can all do our part to combat global hunger and malnutrition.

The United Nations' second Sustainable Development Goal calls for ending world hunger by 2030 and urges profound interventions from governments, businesses and individuals to help feed the growing number of hungry people in the world.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Robin Loznak

Groundbreaking Youth Climate Lawsuit Against U.S. Government Can Proceed

A federal judge on Monday rejected the Trump administration's last-ditch efforts to derail a landmark constitutional climate lawsuit brought by 21 youth plaintiffs, preserving the trial start date of Oct. 29 in Eugene, Oregon.

In a 62-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken denied yet another attempt from the federal government to throw out Juliana v. United States, which was first filed in 2015.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Daniel Heighton / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Taxing Carbon May Sound Like a Good Idea But Does It Work?

By Paul Griffin

Exxon Mobil is backing a proposal to tax oil, gas and coal companies for the carbon they emit and redistribute the money raised that way to all Americans. It's also giving a group urging Washington to enact a tax on carbon US$1 million to advocate for this policy.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!