Plastic sucks. It’s terrible for the environment (because it never completely breaks down) and it’s also thought to be bad for our health (studies of different types of plastics are ongoing). In light of this, many countries have started banning single-use plastic bags outright or charging for them to discourage use—the most recent being Australia. After a bit of a rocky start, it’s all been worth it because the amount the country has saved from ever entering the environment is amazing.
In the past, it was estimated one TRILLION plastic bags were used every year worldwide. That’s two million per minute and (it goes without saying) way too many. According to ReuseThisBag.com, the USA alone uses 380 billion single-use plastic bags per year. And while these statistics are downright alarming, we’ve decided to celebrate the pledge some countries are making to help. As it stands, 55 countries have banned the bag, with a further 31 charging for bags instead.
While there is no concrete number on how many bags have been saved around the globe from these measures to date, Australia has had some promising numbers come out just a few short months after the ban came into effect in late 2018. Thanks to the two major supermarket chains leading to charge, The National Retail Association (NRA) estimates there has been an 80% drop in plastic bag consumption nation-wide which equates to 1.5 billion fewer bags going in landfill each year.
Comparatively Australia’s population is pretty small, so imagine this on a global scale with all of the other countries trying to tackle the plastic problem. After Denmark started charging for bags in 1993, usage dropped by 60%. While Ireland started taxing bag users in 2002 and saw a 90% drop. Most admirably, Ireland saw usage rising again in 2007 so increased the tax to keep the numbers down. Plus, the European Union has pledged to make an 80% reduction in plastic bag usage across its nations by 2019. With these measures in place we’ll be looking at tens of billions of bags saved per year worldwide.
The very first government to ban the bag outright was Bangladesh in 2002. Beyond saving the environment, they also found the plastic bags clogged their waterways and sewage systems and led to a rise in flooding, which destroys communities (and lives in extreme circumstances). The strictest government though is Rwanda, who enforces the ban to the point where travellers entering the country may have their plastic bags taken off them.
Wikipedia has an extensive list of what every countries stance on plastic bags is and it’s well worth a read before your next travels!