The island of Taiwan has been featured prominently in the news this year. Yes, that’s due largely to their contested sovereignty from China, but they’ve ALSO gained the spotlight for their decisive action in helping to rid the world’s landfills and oceans of disposable plastics!
In February, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) announced a ban on all single-use plastic straws, bags, food containers, and utensils. These items will be phased out completely by the year 2030, with initial sanctions against businesses providing these items for free by 2019. EPA Minister Lee Ying-yuan said that people can either make do with reusable products or can simply refrain from using some items like straws.
Following this positive move by Taiwan, the U.K. announced this month that they will ban the sale of all plastic-stemmed cotton buds (or Q-tips), as well as plastic drinking straws and drink stirrers. These measures are set to be discussed and consulted on over the course of the year and will be implemented as early as 2019. The ban on cotton buds, drinking straws, and drink stirrers follows the already-successful implementation of a ban on micro-beads and plastic bags in the U.K.
Michael Gove (secretary of the U.K.’s Department or Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) claimed, “It is only through government, business and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation”.
Following on the heels of the U.K., the Bahamas declared on April 28 that they are developing a strategy to eliminate all single-use plastics by 2020. Minister of the Environment and Housing, Romauld Fereira, explained that this strategy includes measures to ban plastic shopping bags, utensils, straws, and Styrofoam products, and to prohibit the release of helium-filled balloons.
They will also become a signatory to the Clean Seas campaign, an international initiative created to stimulate global awareness of marine litter in the public and private sectors, and among individuals.
Since 1950, we have produced 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic, equivalent to the weight of 80 million blue whales. Of that volume, 6.3 billion tonnes has become plastic waste, with approximately 8 million tonnes entering our oceans every year.
This past December, the United Nations passed a resolution to eliminate plastic pollution from entering the oceans. All 193 nations of the U.N. signed on to the agreement, which stipulates that nations must begin monitoring the amount of plastic they put into the ocean, with a general call for commitments to reduce plastic pollution through plastic bans, recycling measures, and marine protection. Though not yet legally binding (mainly due to interference from the US), countries are hopeful that this is a turning point for plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, and delegates are already planning the different ways that the resolution can be implemented over the next year and a half.
Plastic shopping bags have begun to be banned in select localities and nations over the past 5 years (see the info-graphic below for a quick view of existing and impending bans as of August 2017). However, the bans announced by Taiwan, England, and the Bahamas are exceptionally ambitious due to the large scope of single-use plastic items that these nations intend to ban in one sweep.
And there’s an added bonus – because plastic is created from petrochemical processes, these bans will collectively reduce demand growth for crude oil.
A world without single-use plastics? Yes, please! Head over to the blog to find out what you can do to reduce your own plastic waste.
Does your household, municipality, region, or country have a ban on single-use plastics yet?
If not, is there anything that you can do to help get the process started?