In some countries, people face jail time for using plastic bags. Here are all the places that have banned plastic bags and straws so far.
- New York state lawmakers have approved a state-wide plastic bag ban, which will go into effect in March 2020.
- Similar bans are already in effect in California, Hawaii, and more than 32 countries. Some places tax plastic bags in lieu of a ban.
- Shoppers use 500 billion single-use plastic bags worldwide every year.
- These bags typically end up in landfills or the ocean. More than 100,000 marine mammals get entangled in plastic bags and die annually.
- Other cities and companies have also banned single-use plastic straws.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York legislature have approved a new fiscal budget that includes a state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags.
When the ban goes into effect on March 1, 2020, New York will become one of three US states that doesn't allow these bags. (The others are California and Hawaii.)
"The convenience of plastic bags is simply not worth the environmental impact," New York State Assembly speaker Carl Heastie told the Associated Press. "By reducing our state's usage, we will see less litter in our communities and less plastic pollution in our waterways."
Shoppers worldwide use some 500 billion (yes, billion) single-use plastic bags annually. That's roughly 150 bags per year for every person on Earth, according to the nonprofit group Ocean Crusaders. Strung end-to-end, that's enough plastic to circle the globe 4,200 times.
On average, a plastic bag has only a 12-minute lifespan, according to Reusethisbag, an organization that sells sustainable grocery bags.
Most bags wind up languishing in landfills, where they can remain for up to 1,000 years. Some make their way into the ocean.
Another type of single-use plastic - straws - are also being phased out in some places. In the US, 500 million straws are used daily. But California has banned restaurants from serving customers plastic straws unless they ask, and Seattle has axed them as well.
About 8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean every year on average, though the maximum amount could be closer to 14 million tons.
Plastic bags that wind up in the ocean entangle and kill roughly 100,000 marine mammals each year. Recently, a pregnant sperm whale washed up dead on the shores of Sardinia with nearly 50 pounds of plastic in its stomach. Less than a month earlier, another dead whale was found to have ingested 88 pounds of plastic.
But while only three US states have taken steps to ban plastic bags, they're already banned in 32 countries. Here are the cities and nations around the world that are tackling the growing threat of single-use plastic.
Most countries are taking the threat of plastic pollution seriously. According to a U.N. report, 127 countries had implemented some type of policy regulating plastic bags by July 2018.
These efforts to cub plastic pollution aim to reduce the harm that plastic does to marine ecosystems and wildlife. The amount of plastic in the ocean could triple in the next decade.
Whales, in particular, are at extreme risk from plastic pollution.
The first country to ban plastic bags was Bangladesh, which enacted the rule in 2002.
Nearly two decades later, dozens of countries — including France, India, Mali, the Republic of the Congo, Morocco, and Papua New Guinea — also have bans in place.
Kenya has the strictest plastic bag ban of all. The punishment for breaking the law is up to four years in jail or fines up to $40,000. Rwanda has a strict policy as well.
A Somali terrorist group also banned single-use plastic bags in the areas it controls.
Plastic-bag waste reached such high levels in China that citizens coined the term “white pollution.” The country adopted a full ban in 2008.
In 2018, the city of Montreal banned single-use plastic bags.
The same year, Taiwan announced a plan to enact one of the world's farthest-reaching bans on single-use plastic bags, straws, utensils, and cups.
New Zealand also announced a plastic bag ban in August 2018.
New York is slated to become the third US state to enact a state-wide plastic bag ban.
But about 200 cities around the country have rules in place that forbid or tax plastic bags.
Hawaii was the first state to ban plastic bags in the US.
California, however, is the US leader in efforts to curb plastic pollution. In addition to the state's ban on plastic bags, it has rules about limiting plastic straws as well.
California's new rules about plastic straws went into effect in 2019.
The city of Seattle, Washington also banned plastic straws in 2018.
The European Parliament recently approved a law banning a wide range of single-use plastic items like straws, cotton balls, and cutlery.
Big companies are also taking steps to reduce plastic pollution. McDonald's locations in the UK and Ireland will soon stop giving out plastic straws.
Starbucks, too, announced its intention to stop using plastic straws.
American Airlines and Alaska Airlines will be banning straws, too.
Three hotel companies — Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott — are ditching or curbing the use of straws, too.
Three months after two of Australia's largest supermarket chains — Coles and Woolworths — banned plastic grocery bags in 2018, the country had cut its plastic bag use by 80%.
Instead of outright bans, some places are trying other incentive strategies. Washington, DC, for example, has a 5-cent plastic bag tax.
Bulgaria, Ireland, Denmark, and Sweden all have some type of bag tax as well.
Evidence so far suggests that these bans on single-use plastic straws and bags work.
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