Chilean president Michelle Bachelet has just signed a law banning single-use plastic bags from a total of 102 coastal cities around the country. Any business found violating the ban will be fined up to $300. This is a steep amount in a country where an average monthly salary comes in at just over $860. With the new law, Chile joins several other countries around the world in instituting a plastic bag ban.
If you’re a regular reader of Scuba Diver Life, you’re familiar with the danger plastic bags can pose to marine life. It adds to the plastic garbage patches; it breaks down into microplastic, which then enters the food chain. Finally, it kills turtles, among other marine animals, who mistake drifting plastic bags for jellyfish.
Plastic bag bans around the world
Bans against plastic bags are already in place in many parts of the world, including many African and Asian countries. The EU has announced that it wants to see a reduction in plastic usage of 80 percent among its membership nations. The U.S., sadly, does not have a comprehensive plastic-management program in place, nor any immediate plans to create one. Several states, counties, and municipalities have, however, set up various bans.
The ban in Chile is a solid step in the right direction, especially if the government follows up with even more legislation on plastic. Banning plastic bags near the ocean front will of course limit the amount of plastic bags that wash out to sea. But as we’ve reported previously, ocean plastic doesn’t just come from ocean-adjacent land. It can wash out from far inland, by way of rivers and streams. In fact, most of the plastic in the oceans may come from as few as 10 rivers worldwide.
Plastic represents one of the main threats against our oceans and the marine life that lives there. To protect the underwater world we love, countries (and individuals) all over the world must work to reduce plastic usage, from plastic bags to wrapping, cosmetics, straws, and everywhere else.