The World Takes on Plastic Bags
Italy Dumps Plastic Bags with World's First Nationwide Ban
The only plastic bags that will be available in Italy will soon be biodegradable versions, since a ban on plastic bags went into place January 1.
Stores in Italy, which uses 20 billion bags a year (one-fifth of all European use), will be able to give out their remaining plastic bags, but once they're gone, they can only offer paper, biodegradable plastic or cloth bags.
About 200 of the more than 8,000 municipalities in Italy already have plastic bag bans. News reports from European outlets are rife with concern that the country won't be able to handle such a sudden change, and they also worry the biodegradable and paper alternatives will be an annoyance if they are seen as weaker than plastic bags.
Other countries, like China, have found success in plastic bag fees. Earlier this year, Washington, D.C., saw plastic bag use drop by 85 percent one month after imposing a five-cent fee. Ireland saw a similar cut in plastic bag use after a fee imposed in 2002.
(Source: Recycling Coucil of Ontario in February 2011 WasteWatch)
NWT bag fee is the first step to a total ban on single-use bags
Nowhere is waste reduction more important than in the far North. Markets for recyclables are distant and, in many cases, accessible only by air. Is it any wonder that the Northwest Territories has introduced one of the most stringent regulations on single-use bags?
The Single-use Retail Bags Regulations took effect on January 15, 2010. For now, the regulations apply only to grocery retailers, requiring them to charge a hefty 25 cents for each single-use bag dispensed. The program exempts bags used for unpackaged bulk items, prescriptions, or bags used as primary packaging for prepared foods.
The launch of the program was preceded by an awareness campaign that included the distribution of two reusable bags to every household in the territory.
The per-bag fee is remitted to the territorial government. The regulations require grocery retailers to purchase single-use bags only from registered distributors, who must collect a 25 cent per bag fee from the purchasing grocery stores. Distributors remit the fee to the government, where it is earmarked for the Environment Fund, a special-purpose fund established by the Waste Reduction and Recovery Act to help pay for future waste reduction and recycling programs.
The single-use bag initiative is part of a larger, two-year plan to phase out all paper and plastic bags in the territory.
(Source: Recycling Canada in August 2010 WasteWatch)
Alberta retailers pledge to cut bag use in half by 2013
Alberta and four of Canada's major retail associations have reached an agreement aimed at reducing plastic bag use across the province.
The retail industry has agreed to implement a strategy to cut plastic bag use in half by 2013, using 2008 as the baseline year. Approximately 900 million single-use plastic bags were distributed that year. The strategy will be implemented at industry's own cost and includes education initiatives to promote the use of reusable shopping bags.
The four organizations represented in the voluntary agreement with the province are the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, Retail Council of Canada, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, and the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores. Together, these associations represent more than 90 percent of all retail sales in Alberta.
(Source: Recycling Canada in August 2010 WasteWatch)
Back to top
Leaf Rapids, MB: First to ban plastic bags in North America
The small town of Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, has become the first community in North America to have banned single-use plastic bags. It’s a move that has brought international attention to the community of 500, a relatively new town, carved out of the boreal forest in 1972.
The town had imposed a tax on plastic bags last May, trying to reduce the number of bags blowing from the nearby open pit landfill. The litter was ruining the impact of the network of bush trails that surround the town and cost $5,000-$6,000 per year to clean up.
It was InStore Products, manufacturer of a product called Bring Your Own Bag, who was one of the principal movers behind Leaf Rapids’ decision to impose an outright ban. The company supported this push by distributing 5,000 of its Bring Your Own Bags to residents free of charge. Leaf Rapids has now become a marketing platform for Bring Your Own Bag. Local merchants have embraced the ban and are now championing the program. The local Co-op store, for instance, has challenged all Federated Co-op stores to join the ban.
(Source: RCA Connector)
Four months after going plastic-bag free, the tiny town of Leaf Rapids, Man., has no regrets. They're actually starting to wonder why they didn't do it sooner. "It started at the grassroots level, but I think the whole community could see how dirty it was getting," said Mayor Ed Charrier.
The community of 600 prided itself on its pristine surroundings, numerous walking trails and picturesque qualities. But there's nothing lovely about plastic bags floating in the wind and wadding up in ditches.
In May 2006, the town council brought in a 3 cents levy on single-use bags, which was replaced by a ban this past April. Few people even noticed the change because they'd stopped using them. Instead, they turned to reusable bags, many of which were handed out by the municipality. The result was that even those who did their shopping in larger urban centres would bring their own material or recycled plastic bags with them. There has been a noticeable reduction of bags in the local landfill, but it will take years before the existing pile of plastic gets cleaned up, said Charrier.
"I certainly notice a difference on our walking trails," said the mayor. "You hardly see (bags)." When people do see them, instead of passing them by as just another fixture of the scenery, they pick them up for a proper disposal.
(Source: Ottawa Sun)
Back to top
Modbury: English town claims European first with its plastic bag ban
Shopkeepers in the Devon town of Modbury are claiming a European first, by being entirely free of plastic bags. Shopkeepers began a six-month plastic bag-free trial May 1. Paper sacks and cloth carrier bags are offered instead. The BBC reports all 43 Modbury merchants are taking part in the initiative, following a suggestion by a local wildlife camerawoman.
Rebecca Hosking suggested the ban while in the pub one evening in March shortly after filming a BBC documentary about the devastating effect of plastic bags on marine life in Hawaii. She showed the film to the town's traders and hasn’t looked back since.
The idea received no funding or council intervention but Modbury was helped by its preponderance of independent traders. Only the Co-op supermarket was part of a chain and it has been an enthusiastic supporter, convincing all the other merchants. On a busy day, the Co-op store could use 500 to 1,000 plastic bags, but those days are now gone. The store also donated re-usable, fair trade cotton bags which were delivered to each of Modbury's 760 households in time for the plastic bag ban.
Plastic bag amnesty bins are dotted around Modbury, and those collected will be sent for recycling. Just two weeks after the ban was launched, The Independent reports that more than 60 towns in the UK, including 15 in Devon and Cornwall, have approached Hosking for help.
(Source: PPS Review)
Tofino tries ‘voluntary ban’
On May 14, the District of Tofino, BC voted to enact a ban on plastic bags. However, the ban will be voluntary, and residents and businesses will be asked, but not required, to comply. "We're hoping people will effectively switch to compostable bags," said Councillor Derek Shaw, who proposed the idea. "At this point, the ban is effectively sending a message to the community."
San Francisco Leads the Way
San Francisco city leaders approved a ban on plastic grocery bags after weeks of lobbying on both sides from environmentalists and a supermarket trade group. San Francisco will be the first US city to adopt such a rule, striving to curb litter and protecting marine life which gets caught in littered bags that find their way into the ocean and shorelines.
The law, passed by a 10-1 vote, requires large markets and drug stores (those that generate over $2M in annual sales) to give customers only a choice among bags made of biodegradable plastic or paper or reusable shopping bags. It comes into effect in the fall of 2007.
Other cities such as Boston, Baltimore and Portland, Ore., are looking at similar measures. The city of Annapolis, MD, is considering an ordinance that would ban the use of plastic bags at grocery stores. In a recent City Council meeting, Alderman Sam Shropshire introduced a resolution that would ban the use of plastic bags at retail shops. The ordinance calls for a fine of $100 for the initial offense; $200 for a second offense in a 12-month period; and $500 for the third and subsequent offenses in a 12-month period.
The ordinance has been referred to Economic Matters Committee and Finance Committee.
(Source: Recycling Today)
Oakland sued over bag ban
An advocacy group of bag manufacturers and recyclers has sued to overturn a city-approved ban on plastic grocery bags. The Coalition to Support Plastic Bag Recycling claims Oakland failed to adequately consider the adverse environmental impacts of the bag ban.
"I think what concerned us is Oakland kind of copied what San Francisco did," said Michael Mills, the attorney representing the coalition. "The members of the coalition see this as one jurisdiction following another in a questionable action, and now more jurisdictions could follow these examples."
Los Angeles County and the cities of Berkeley and Santa Cruz also are considering requiring large grocery stores and pharmacies to provide bags made of reusable cloth, recyclable paper or plastic that breaks down easily enough to be made into compost.
The state's largest supermarket trade group has argued that measures like the ones adopted in Oakland and San Francisco conflict with a state law that took effect July 1 requiring large stores to set up programs for recycling plastic bags. Oakland's ban is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 17.
Mills said that making stores switch to plastic bags that can be turned into compost would harm the environment because they cannot be mixed in with conventional petroleum-based bags at recycling centers without contaminating them and rendering the recycled plastic useless.
(Source: San Jose Mercury News)
Los Angeles adds plastic bags to recycling
Since July 1, Los Angeles residents have been allowed to put plastic grocery bags and Styrofoam in city-issued recycling bins. The expansion is part of a larger effort to meet Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's goal of recycling, by 2015, 70% of the estimated 10 million tons of waste generated annually by the city.
But the future of the city's efforts to recycle plastic bags and polystyrene foam is uncertain. The Board of Supervisors is considering a ban on plastic grocery bags, while environmental groups have called for a state-wide ban on both types of products.
Helou (L.A. Sanitation) said his department doesn't support a ban on the polystyrene foam and plastic grocery bags because of potential revenue opportunities.
In the late 1980s, before state law required recycling, Los Angeles annually buried all 1.6 million tons of the waste it collected from curbsides. And though the amount of waste has stayed the same, only 1 million tons are now being sent to landfills, with the rest recycled, Helou said. [Source: LA Times]
(Source: August 2007 WasteWatch)
Ontario Tackles Plastic Bags
Will that be paper or a cloth bag or reusable container? This is becoming a common question in Ontario grocery stores these days as a result of a recent announcement from the government of Ontario.
On May 9, 2007, the Province revealed an undertaking with key organizations and industry to find solutions to, and reduce the number and use of, oil-based plastic bags. The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, Retail Council of Canada, and others have entered into a voluntary partnership with Ministry of the Environment.
This partnership is based on stewardship principals and has the following main components:
- Reduction – Reduce the number of bags used by 50% within 5 years, promote use of alternatives such as reusable bags/containers, and incorporate more recycled content in plastic bags
- Recycling – Establish recycling of plastic bags in-store or through municipal program
- Promotion and Education – Encourage consumers through annual promotions to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic bags
- Reporting/Monitoring – Produce an annual public report on initiatives for the reduction, reuse and recycling of plastic bags
- Government Research – Conduct research to better understand related issues and develop a more comprehensive plan for packaging in the future. The Province is providing funding for these research projects. Currently, the Association of Municipal Recycling Coordinators is undertaking a study on how plastic bags are handled, and identify any issues with their inclusion in the Blue Box recycling program.
While this is a new undertaking, there are signs that it is already working. More reusable bags/containers are made visible and readily available at more grocery stores. At other retail outlets, “do you want a bag for that?” is often asked. However, the Ministry of Environment will be monitoring the progress and has made it clear that if this voluntary initiative does not succeed it is prepared to regulate.
For more info see press release.
Note: Due to a recent employment change,Clayton Sampson is now at email@example.com, or you can phone him at 519-539-0869. If you are looking for information on waste management programs, don’t hesitate to contact him.
(Source: August 2007 WasteWatch)
Plastic bag use has dropped 70%, grocer says
The city of Toronto's 5-cent fee on plastic bags, created in a bid to cut their use, is working - and well beyond Toronto's borders. The Metro grocery store chain, which instituted the fee across Ontario and Quebec after the Toronto bylaw, said today it is using 70% fewer bags across both provinces. Metro says it is selling five times more reusable bags than it did before the fee was instituted June 1.
(Source: RCO in August 2009 WasteWatch)
“Bring the Old Bag Shopping” Program Curbs Plastic Bag Use
British Columbia ’s Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) launched its "Bring the Old Bag Shopping" campaign in conjunction with Waste Reduction Week last October to reduce the estimated three billion plastic bags Canadians dispose of each year. The program, which encourages the public to re-use cloth shopping bags, was immediately embraced by the residents. In the cities of Trail and Rossland (total population 11,500), local grocery retailer Ferraro Foods has sold close to 4,000 cloth bags. Ferraro estimates they will save $20,000 per year by reducing their plastic bags purchases. Elsewhere, the owner of the Liberty Foods Store in Fruitvale is contributing 5 cents to the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital Foundation each time a customer uses a cloth bag. For more information, contact Tim Dueck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Source: Recycling Council of British Columbia in March 2005 WasteWatch)
Zanzibar Imposes Ban on Plastic Shopping Bags
Zanzibar has imposed a ban on plastic shopping bags. Anyone found producing, importing, using or selling plastic bags after November 9, 2006 could face a fine of up to US$2,000 and a possible jail sentence of up to a year, said Ali Juma, Zanzibar's director of environmental protection.
The ban -- which applies only to thin, transparent polyvinylchloride bags -- was necessary because the bags clogged sewers and produced poisonous fumes when burned, Juma said. "We are enforcing the law on hazardous products and waste." He did not say what people should do with the bags they already have.
The Indian Ocean archipelago, home to 1 million people, lacks the technology to recycle plastic. It also faces serious marine and land pollution problems.
Until now, Zanzibar has imported 350,000 tons of plastic bags per year. The duty on those bags had brought in more than US$1 million in tax revenue, said Juma Omar of the Zanzibar Chambers of Commerce.
(ENN News in Dec. 2006 WasteWatch)
China bans thin plastic bags
China has banned the production, sale and use of plastic bags with a thickness of less than 0.025 millimeters, as of June 1, 2008. Supermarkets and stores will be prohibited from giving free plastic bags to customers after June 1, as well. Instead, such establishments are directed to charge for any non-banned bags to discourage their use.
extensive ban will also bar the use of bags "in passenger trains, vessels, buses, planes, stations, airports and scenic spots," according to the announcement made on the general office's website. The announcement further directs:
- financial authorities to consider tax measures discouraging the production and sale of plastic bags, and encouraging the product's recovery
- quality inspection authorities to revise state standards for plastic bags and set up a monitoring mechanism for enforcing the ban
- waste collectors to separate scrap plastic for reprocessing and further reduce the amount burnt or buried.
(Source: The Latest Recycling News in Feb. 2008 WasteWatch)
China ban saves 40 million plastic bags
China's ban on free plastic bag distribution by retailers has pushed usage down by an average of 66 per cent over a 12-month period, according to the China Chain Store & Franchise Association.
The ban, imposed in 2008, has saved the use of an estimated 40 million plastic bags that would have taken 1.6 million tons of oil to produce, according to a survey by the group.
Prior to the ban, an estimated three billion plastic bags were given out daily, with supermarket freebies accounting for one-third of the total. Shops and restaurants distributed the remainder.
The bags generated three million tons of waste annually and their production used a large proportion of the five million tons - or 37 million barrels - of crude oil that was refined annually for plastic packaging. About 1,300 tons were used daily to produce shopping bags for supermarkets alone.
One unanticipated outcome of the ban has been an increase in the demand for rubbish bags. The government has now fast-tracked new standards for the bags, including degradable ones.
(Source: Recycling Council of Ontario in May 2009 WasteWatch)
UN Environmental Group Calls for Ban on Plastic Bags
A report released by the United Nation's Environment Programme and Ocean Conservancy has found that significant steps need to be taken to reduce the problem with marine litter. The report is the first taken by the UN to take stock of the marine litter situation in the world's 12 major regional seas.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "Marine litter is symptomatic of a wider malaise: namely the wasteful use and persistent poor management of natural resources. The plastic bags, bottles and other debris piling up in the oceans and seas could be dramatically reduced by improved waste reduction, waste management and recycling initiatives."
"Some of the litter, like thin film single-use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere - there is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere. Other waste can be cut by boosting public awareness, and proposing an array of economic incentives and smart market mechanisms that tip the balance in favor of recycling, reducing or re-use rather than dumping into the sea," he said.
The report's findings indicate that despite several international, regional and national efforts to reverse marine pollution, alarming quantities of rubbish thrown out to sea continue to endanger people's safety and health, entrap wildlife, damage nautical equipment and deface coastal areas around the world.
(Source: Recycling Today in August 2009 WasteWatch)
Back to top
Back to Plastics main page
Back to Resources main page
Back to Home page