4 countries that have banned single-use plastic
Single-use plastic is one of the main causes of plastic pollution worldwide. In recent years, everything from disposable straws, cups, bottles and shopping bags have contributed around 130 million tons of waste. This massive volume is incinerated, buried in a landfill or thrown directly into the sea – but unfortunately plastics do not biodegrade. This means that over time these products will gradually break down into microplastics that harm the environment, damage habitats and contribute to climate change.
As a result, many countries have started banning single-use plastic to varying degrees. The EU is one government authority that has attempted to enshrine these cleaner, greener practices into law, but has seen little compliance among its member states. Countries like France and Greece have made changes and even added to EU measures to reduce their domestic waste generation, while others have fallen behind.
But there is hope: Countries elsewhere in the world have made progress towards a future free of controversial material. We can learn from them as we strive to reduce our own use of plastic. Here are our picks for the best places that have banned single-use plastic.
The tiny two-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is a popular Caribbean destination tackling the issue of single-use plastic to preserve its natural beauty and tourist appeal. The country’s ‘Plastics Be Gone’ initiative aims to reduce consumption by 30% over five years, while a ‘Plastic Free July’ program encourages residents to completely steer clear of plastic waste and think about the dangerous effects of climate change.
The islands are also using funds from their Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program to raise awareness about plastic consumption and other climate risks. The program grants citizenship on the islands in exchange for a monetary investment in their development and sustainability efforts. This way, investors gain the right to live and work in the country by donating to trusts such as the Sustainable Growth Fund, helping to fund social and economic development in sustainable sectors such as alternative energy, education and climate change.
The UK is no longer part of the EU. As such, the country is not subject to the bloc’s decisions on single-use plastic waste. Despite this, Scotland and Wales have each chosen to link the restrictions they will impose to follow EU law, creating a variety of restriction conditions across the UK. Therefore, the bans already imposed in England seek to extend to other parts of the UK. These largely target plastic cutlery, drink stirrers, straws, plates and polystyrene containers.
The UK has also cracked down on the sale of beauty and personal care products containing plastic microbeads, such as some facial scrubs and toothpaste. These are tiny pieces of plastic that are used for their exfoliating properties, but when washed, the sewage ends up in the ocean and contributes to marine plastic pollution.
Kenya is known for its pragmatic approach to plastic waste. The East African nation banned single-use carrier bags in 2017 and now applies strict fines of up to $40,000 to any violators found using, selling or manufacturing the bags. This harsh penalty is more than just a eulogy to sustainability – since its introduction, the law has seen a number of fruit vendors and other vendors arrested for selling.
The government then imposed a directive to ban single-use plastics in protected areas on World Environment Day. This ban extended to beaches, forests and conservation areas where visitors would no longer be allowed to carry plastic bottles, cups or disposable utensils. Environmental preservation is a top priority for government authorities so that Kenya’s iconic landscapes and wildlife can be enjoyed for years to come.
Single-use plastic comes in many forms, and each industry apparently has its own sustainability sins to deal with. In 2020, Bangladesh chose to address those in its hospitality industry, deciding that hotels and other accommodations nationwide should stop supplying toiletries and other plastic-wrapped products. Coastal areas were also a point of contention for the High Court, which voted to ban all consumption of single-use plastic in these areas of natural beauty.
As the first country in the world to ban plastic carrier bags in 2002, Bangladesh continues to push the boundaries of what it means to be sustainable. In 1998, the nation learned firsthand of the devastating consequences of excessive plastic waste, when a catastrophic monsoon season caused massive flooding in its cities, thanks in part to their drainage systems being blocked by plastic bags. However, despite being pioneers, authorities in Bangladesh have reportedly issued very few fines since the landmark 2002 decision – they may want to take some note from Kenya.
In summary, many countries around the world have embarked on hopeful initiatives to tackle single-use plastic consumption. Other countries and companies can learn from these lessons and reduce single-use plastics as well. As pressure mounts for governments to act, the tide could turn against plastic waste – and we may be able to continue enjoying our natural world for years to come.