U.N. Calls for Global Ban on Plastic Bags

Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Program Achim Steiner is advocating a global ban on plastic bags because there is “zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere,” he says.

Steiner’s comment came from a UNEP report that identifies plastic as the most common form of ocean litter, along with cigarette butts, according to the results of the 2008 International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Photo: Thefourthside.wordpress.com

According to the ACC, more than 830 million pounds of bags and film were recycled nationwide in 2007. Photo: Thefourthside.wordpress.com

“Plastic, the most prevalent component of marine debris, poses hazards because it persists so long in the ocean, degrading into tinier and tinier bits that can be consumed by the smallest marine life at the base of the food web,” the report says.

Currently, San Francisco is the only U.S. city that has completely banned plastic bags. China is also testing the same ban in which retailers distributing plastic bags can be fined up to $1,464.

However, Keith Christman, senior director for the plastics division of the American Chemisty Council (ACC) tells McClatchy Newspapers that most “single-use” plastic bags are often reused.

“A ban on plastic bags could also cause some unintended consequences,” he says referring to the increased demand for paper bags that could double greenhouse emissions and create “a dramatic increase in waste.”

According to the ACC, because plastic grocery bags are lightweight, they require 70 percent less energy to manufacture than paper bags. Also, for every seven trucks needed to deliver paper bags, only one truck is needed for the same number of plastic bags, which reduces emissions and saves energy during transport.

While a global ban on plastic bags may seem far-fetched, Christman recommends recycling your plastic bags. The ACC is aiming for plastic bags to be manufactured with 40 percent recycled content by 2015, which is expected to reduce waste by 300 million pounds per year.

  • Kelly Rushing

    This is one of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time! Now they just need to tackle disposable water bottles.

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  • Sandra Bekin

    The state of South Australia, in Australia, has banned single-use plastic check-out bags from early in 2009. Biodegradible starch-based bags, which look, feel and feel perform like the banned ones, are avaiable for a few cents each at check-outs but people are encouraged to bring their own re-useable shopping bags to the shops.

    Also South Australia has a drink-container deposit system that has been operating for a number of decades. Each drink and flavoured milk container has a 10 cent deposit built into the price which is a refund that can be claimed at rcycling centres.

    This scheme has greatly reduced litter and increased recycling of drink bottles and containers. As well as the purchasers returning them for the refunds, community groups will take them for fundraising and people on low incomes will collect discarded containers to earn extra money. This ensures few drink bottles, cans and containers remain discarded for very long and over 90% are recycled.

  • Sandra Bekin

    Kelly Rushing “Now they just need to tackle disposable water bottles.”

    In relation to my previous post, the 10 cent deposit on drink containers applies also to disposable plastic bottles of water, juices and soft drinks. This means most are recycled.

  • http://www.thetotebuddy.com Julie Zizka

    Reducing the use of plastic and paper bags is the goal. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it photodegrades, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually appearing as food to birds and marine life. Paper bags are costly to manufacture (think deforestation) and transport and even the recycled versions use a tremendous amount of resources to produce. The answer is reusable bags. The switch from ‘paper or plastic’ to reusable is simple and fun. Find a bag that you really enjoy using – decorate it and make it a reflection of you. Say ‘No thanks’ to ‘paper or plastic’ TODAY!

  • http://www.earthmovingideas.com.au kym Burrows

    Yes ban traditional plastic bags – encourage reuseable bags and welcome NEW Bio-Compostable plastic technology!
    : )

  • http://www.zoewiseman.com ZKWC

    Ban bags and bottles! I scuba dive and see this horrible trash floating around in the oceans. I see these death traps (plastic bags) attached to turtles. It’s sad.

    Buy your own cloth bags!

  • http://www.zoewiseman.com ZKWC

    Here’s a solution!

  • Roger

    Why doesn’t the U.N. call for a global ban on filter tipped cigarettes?