Single-use plastic, the countries that have banned it

Sushree Behera

Do you know it takes plastic up to 1000 years to decompose? Plastic, which was praised for its durability when it was invented, had become a material that can contribute to the doom of humanity.

Single-use plastic is the main contributor to this plastic problem. Since it is non-biodegradable, these items become microplastics (plastic pieces less than 5mm) over time. These microplastics harm the environment, damage habitats, and eventually get into our food.

Thus, many countries worldwide have taken strict initiatives to ban the use of single-use plastic to prevent the drastic consequences. So, keep reading to know everything about what the countries have ventured into to deal with the dire plastic problem.

Top 10 countries with a ban on single-use plastics

Here’s the list of the top 10 countries that have successfully implemented a ban on single-use plastics.

1. United States 

Eight states in the US have banned the use of single-use plastic items. California led the way in the country by banning single-use plastics in 2014. This was followed by a ban on plastic microbeads in the country in 2015. The US plans to completely eradicate the use of single-use plastics on public lands by 2032.

2. Canada 

The country Canada is one of the few nations leading the battle against single-use plastic. Canada banned plastic microbeads in 2018. On December 20, 2022, the country banned the manufacture and import of single-use plastic bags, cutlery, food service, and straws. And there will be a ban on the sale of these items by December 2023. It implemented all these policies based on the aim of making the country plastic free by 2030.

3. United Kingdom 

Even though the UK is no longer a member of the EU, parts of the EU’s single-use plastic regulations is being followed there. The UK government eyes banning single-use plastic like plastic straws, cups, and bags by 2024. They also want to ban the sale of beauty and hygiene products containing plastic microbeads.

Also the Welsh Government said that they want to make Wales a plastic waste-free state by 2050. Thus, the UK has been taking active steps to curb the problem of single-use plastics.

4. India 

India is another country that is actively working to deal with the plastic waste issue. In 2017, the largest city in the country, Delhi, banned the use of all forms of single-use plastic. The Indian government also banned the use of all 21 forms of single-use plastic items, such as plastic plates, straws, cigarette packets, etc. The aim is to curb the increasing plastic pollution in the country.

5. France 

The world’s first nation to completely outlaw single-use plastic products is France. The French government banned the use of plastic cutlery and straws in 2016. And in January 2022, the country banned the use of single-use plastic packaging under the anti-waste law. The law is part of the French government’s aim to completely eradicate single-use plastic by 2040.

6. Kenya

The world’s toughest ban on single-use plastics is practiced in Kenya. Anyone who is found to use or manufacture single-use plastics can be jailed for up to 4 years or fined up to $3000. The African nation took this serious approach because plastic bags pollute their local environment and contribute to frequent floods.

7. Zimbabwe

While Zimbabwe says it fully supports the ban on single-use plastic items, the country is yet to ban it. However, the country has imposed a ban on plastic microbeads. Also, in 2017, Zimbabwe announced a total ban on expanded polystyrene, a plastic material used in food containers.

8. Bangladesh

Bangladesh was the first nation to outlaw the use of light plastic bags in 2002. The country is working to ban the use of single-use plastic items in coastal areas and hotels. Bangladesh has also created a natural alternative to plastic made of jute

9. Australia

Various areas in Australia, such as South Australia, Tasmania, etc., banned using single-use plastic for consumer purposes. Recently, on November 1, 2022, New South Wales also banned the use of single-use plastic along with polystyrene foam food containers. The Victorian government also banned single-use plastic items from February 1, 2023. All these steps are taken under the grand plan of the Australian government to eliminate single-use plastic items from the country by 2025.

10. South Africa

South Africa is a country that is very serious about preserving its rich wildlife. On March 1, 2021, the SA government implemented the single-use and other plastic products (Waste Avoidance) Act, 2020, to prohibit the sale, manufacture, and distribution of all forms of single-use plastic items.

Challenges associated with implementing bans

The use of paper bags and jute bags is seen as a natural alternative to single-use plastic bags. However, numerous challenges are associated with implementing a single-use plastics ban. 

The main challenges associated with the single-use plastics ban are: 

  1. Costs of alternative bags 

While biodegradable bags made of paper and jute are a viable alternative to plastic bags, they are very costly in comparison to plastic bags. Due to this, businesses and people find it difficult to use biodegradable bags, especially in developing countries.

  1. Durability

Biodegradable bags are also infamous for being fragile. Unlike plastic bags made to hold heavy and wet items, paper bags cannot hold heavy and wet items.

  1. Low expiry date

Plastic bags are known to last for hundreds of years. Thus, they are preferred by customers on daily use and are often used more than once. However, biodegradable bags can be used only once and for a certain day. 

All these reasons contribute to consumer behavior, where consumers are more inclined towards using plastic bags instead of biodegradable bags. This causes serious challenges in implementing single-use plastics bans since bans will only be effective when people follow the restrictions placed by the bans.

What can other countries learn from the success stories of bans on single-use plastic?

Eradicating the use of single-use plastics is a very significant step towards a sustainable world. Though several countries are taking active actions to eliminate single-use plastics usage, the number is still very low. Many countries are yet to realize the harm that single-use plastics can cause. 

So, there are a few important lessons other countries can learn from the successes of those who have already banned single-use plastic.

Firstly, countries should take active steps towards replacing plastic bags with paper or jute bags. The countries should ensure that they endure the cost of providing biodegradable bags so people’s behavior can change. 

Secondly, the countries should ensure that the leftover plastic generated after the replacement is handled properly. The plastics that can be reused should be reused, and the rest should be dumped in non-agricultural lands. 

Lastly, special emphasis should be placed on enforcing laws related to single-use plastic bans. Only when the government imposes strict measures against businesses and people use paper and jute bags will the current situation change. The world can only be free from plastics when all the people in the world are cautious enough to know its danger and work progressively to eradicate its use.

Read also: Upcycling, definition and the difference with recycling

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