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It may seem innocuous to flush a Q-tip down the toilet, but those bits of plastic have been washing up on beaches and pose a threat to the birds, turtles and marine life that call those beaches home. The scourge of plastic "nurdles," as they are called, has pushed Scotland to implement a complete ban on the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, as the BBC reported.

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By Melissa Gates

After a local 2nd grade student successfully petitioned the Portland City Council in 2018 to mitigate plastic straw use in city-owned buildings, the Maine Chapter took it to the next level with Council interest to pass a citywide ordinance becoming the first municipality in Maine to ban single-use plastic straws, stirrers and splash sticks.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Man lying on plastic infested coast of Villa El Salvador near Lima, Peru in May. Jordan Beltran / Unsplash

The government of India is set to impose a nationwide ban on plastic bags, cups and straws on October 2, officials announced, in its most sweeping measure yet to eradicate single-use plastics from cities and villages that have ranked among the world's most polluted.

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picture-alliance / dpa / J. Woitas

German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze has said she plans to introduce a law to ban the use of plastic bags.

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JasonDoiy / iStock/ Getty Images Plus

If you're looking for a bottle of water in SFO after you've cleared security and rushed to the gate, think again. Yes, hustling through the terminal made you thirsty, but did you pack your refillable water bottle in your carry-on?

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A display on single-use plastic pollution at the Vancouver, British Columbia Aquarium on June 22, 2018. Steven Lee / Flickr

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce a plan to ban single-use plastics by 2021 at a press conference in Montreal Monday, the Associated Press reports.

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Governors in Vermont and Maine signed bills on Monday that will ban plastic bags in their states next year, The Hill reported.

The Maine ban will go into effect next Earth Day, April 22, 2020. The Vermont ban, which extends beyond plastic bags and is the most comprehensive plastics ban so far, will go into effect in July 2020. The wait time is designed to give businesses time to adjust to the ban.

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Drinks with plastic straws on sale at London's Borough Market. Susie Adams / Getty Images

The UK government has set a date for a ban on the sale of single use plastics, The Guardian reported Wednesday. From April 2020, the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds with plastic stems will be prohibited in England.

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Portland Press Herald / Contributor / Getty Images

Maine became the first state to officially ban single-use Styrofoam cups and containers on Tuesday.

Democratic Maine Governor Janet Mills called the bill an "important step forward in protecting our environment" when she signed it into law, The Associated Press reported.

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Plastic bottles on a beach in Norway (not a member country of the EU). Bo Eide / Flickr

The European Parliament approved a ban on single-use plastics Wednesday, meaning that common plastic items that make up 70 percent of marine litter will be banned in the EU by 2021, the parliament announced in a press release.

The law also sets targets for the collection of plastic bottles, includes new labeling laws and strengthens provisions to ensure companies pay to clean up the pollution they cause.

"Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said, as The Guardian reported. "We got this, we can do this. Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world."

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A man holds a plastic shopping bag in New York's Central Park. Kena Betancur / VIEWpress / Corbis via Getty Images

New York State lawmakers agreed to a ban on single-use plastic bags Sunday, making the Empire State the second in the nation to do so.

The decision was part of a $175.5 billion budget agreement that included other progressive measures including the elimination of cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent crimes, three-hours-off on election day for voting and the nation's first-ever congestion pricing program in the busiest part of Manhattan. The budget was expected to be passed in a series of bills during a session Sunday that could carry into Monday, the Associated Press reported.

"I am proud to announce that together, we got it done," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said of the budget, according to the Associated Press.

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California became the first state in the nation to ban hotels from offering mini toiletries in plastic bottles Wednesday when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to that effect into law.

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Assorted plastic bottles. mali maeder / Pexels

California ended its 2019 legislative session Saturday without passing two bills that would have led the nation in tackling plastic pollution, The Mercury News reported.

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Shoppers push shopping carts towards a Sainsbury's supermarket on April 29, 2018 in London, England. Chris J Ratcliffe / Getty Images

Charging grocery shoppers a small fee for plastic bags works.

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BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images

The campaign to re-elect President Donald Trump has found a new way to troll liberals and sea turtles.

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A plastic cup for a shake, a beverage cup for soft drinks and disposable plastic crockery from McDonald's lie in a garbage can in Berlin, Germany on June 28. Gerald Matzka / picture alliance via Getty Images

McDonald's ditched plastic straws in the United Kingdom and Ireland last fall and replaced them with paper ones made from recyclable materials. It turns out though the new straws can't be recycled. The plastic ones could, according to CNN.

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East West Market

Forget your reusable bag at Vancouver's East West Market and you will walk out telling the world you're into some kinky stuff, the Guardian reports.

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Thailand's Wai Mei Dat center filled with imported e-waste. baselactionnetwork / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Thailand has joined Vietnam and Malaysia in cracking down on the world's trash. Thailand will stop accepting more than 400 types of electronic waste (e-waste), including circuit boards, old TVs and radios, within six months, an environment ministry official told Reuters.

The decision was made Wednesday at a meeting chaired by Surasak Kanchanarat, the environment minister. Imports of plastic waste will also be banned in two years, although specific details of the program are not yet known, Reuters reported.

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Plastic pollution on a beach in Hawaii. NOAA

The proliferation of plastic pollution has led to concerns over its impact on marine life and human health as the toxins it absorbs and emits move up the food chain. Now, a new study reveals yet another potential plastic hazard: It releases greenhouse gasses.

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