In recent years, cities across the world have been making strides towards becoming more sustainable and using less plastic, thanks to government-mandated plastic bag bans. But how is it really implemented and how has it impacted our modern shopping reality?
Reusable Grocery Bags
We all remember the days of heading to the supermarket for our weekly grocery shopping and coming home with more single-use plastic bags to add to the growing collection in the cupboard. You know – the kind that barely held more than four items and split just as you were arriving home from the store. Remember them?
Well, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, more than 90 countries have restrictions (if not complete bans) on these single-use bags, with many others also moving towards a more sustainable way of shopping.
Looking back on the bygone days of bullshit choices and a startling disrespect for the environment, I for one am thankful AF that we are moving forward in a world that has a greater, greener conscience.
Across the globe, people are making better choices, with many advocating for and using reusable shopping bags. Not only do they last soooo much longer, but they also hold a ton more stuff. (Without the painful ‘cutting-into-your-hand’ sensation of shitty single-use bags!)
It does seem that most places have been making strides forward, with less single-use plastic being seen in store aisles and at checkout counters. Some countries have banned plastic bags altogether, while others have added a surcharge to deter their usage.
So, honestly, how have countries around the world been coping with the shopping bag changes? Well, some better than others – but we’re all headed in the right direction!
Plastic Grocery Bag Bans Across the World
USA (San Francisco, California)
Back in 2007, San Francisco was the first US city to place a ban on single-use plastic bags (woohoo to San Fran! Good job guys!) They did it by enforcing a charge on checkout bags, which was originally 10c, but has recently increased to 25c.
They’ve also gone one step further, by implementing a change that all pre-checkout bags – ones used for veggies or other unwrapped food – now need to either be made from paper or compostable material. (Thank god!)
The policy in San Fran has led to a 72% reduction in plastic bag pollution, and led the way for other cities in the US to follow suit! Impressive! Makes you wonder why isn’t every other city doing this too, right? Anyway, let’s continue.
Chile banned single-use plastic bags, but only in coastal cities. However, this is not bad at all since Chile’s long thin shape means most of its country has a coastline. This covers over 230 towns, including many of the larger metropolitan and tourist areas.
The impact of this has made the beaches clearer and has significantly helped marine life.
In 2002, India banned the production of plastic bags below 20 µm in thickness, as they would easily shred, and plastic remains would litter the towns and countrysides – often found in the stomach of animals. Yikes!
India was set to have a ban on all single use-plastics in 2019, but instead called it off in favor of an attempt to curb usage.
The government in India said it attempts to educate people and encourage greater recycling, and they aim to phase out the use of single-use plastics by 2022 (Almost there!).
It’s great to see initiatives taken in some areas of the country, for instance, in Kerala, it’s an age-old tradition to serve Thali meals on banana leaves instead of plastic plates and use your hands for eating instead of plastic cutlery.
In Rajasthan, you can find colorful saris upcycled into shopping bags at markets and shops. Pretty cool, right?
Starting in 2015, the UK began to charge consumers for using plastic bags, with a 5 pence charge for the thinner, single-use bags, and many stores creating more durable, longer-lasting bags for 10p. This is mainly for larger stores though, as any business with less than 250 employees doesn’t need to follow these restrictions (bummer, but hey progress is progress).
Officials have seen a huge drop in the use of single-use plastics, estimated at 80%. But it also had other great impacts, with the government spending millions of pounds less on the removal of public litter and on carbon savings. Nice!
Lastly, lots of stores have a ‘bag for life’ scheme, where if you purchase a reusable grocery bag and it breaks, they replace it for free.
Bali and the rest of Indonesia
These small island chains are renowned for their use and abuse of plastics with Bali’s residents, tourists, and organizations generating 1.6 million tons of waste every year, and 303,000 of it is plastic. About 11% of the plastic waste ends up in the ocean and rivers of the island each year, detracting from its natural beauty. Not good at all!
While many of the larger businesses are following the new regulations of an island-wide ban, Styrofoam trays and plastic straws are still widely available in smaller, independent street vendors and markets.
They face a struggle, as many of the shoppers arrive without a bag to take their shopping items home in. So vendors say that they still need to have plastic bags to sell their goods. (It’s true that it’s not easy to carry 4 loose apples and a mango without a bag!)
While some small businesses have found unique ways to move forward, such as using large banana leaves to wrap up takeaway food. Others still have a way to go.
Australia seems to have got their plastic ban going well since South Australia led the movement back in 2009. Currently, all States and Territories across Australia except for New South Wales have now banned single-use lightweight plastic bags, and consultations are in place for the phasing out of other single-use plastics such as plastic straws, stirrers, plates, cutlery, coffee, and other cups. Woohoo!
Australians have been in favor of the ban, with a study showing that 70% of citizens would not go back to how it was before. Heck yeah, Aussies!
In 2017, Kenya banned plastic bags. They had problems with the millions of single-use bags clogging up drainage systems and contributing to flooding in rainy seasons. More worryingly, a study of cows in the local area found that more than 50% of them near urban areas had plastic bags in their stomach. (Oh shit!)
Kenyan governments have placed harsh fines and jail terms on use of plastic bags and the decrease of polythene bag use ensued.
However, manufacturers found a loophole and began making bags of a different type of plastic that is more recyclable. Polypropylene is a type of plastic that is easier to recycle than polythene, but some companies are manipulating the quality of the products and these are also not recyclable.
Despite being one of the most populated cities in the world, astonishingly China is kinda late to the banning of single-use plastic compared to the rest of the world. Non-degradable bags are planned to be banned in major cities by the end of 2020 and in all cities and towns by 2022.
And it has to happen now, China’s huge population of 1.4 billion people generates a ton of plastic waste, with the country’s largest rubbish dump – which is the size of around 100 football pitches – is already full, 25 years ahead of their planned estimate!
Their efforts to roll out changes will happen over the next 5 years, with shops being the first to ditch the plastic bag. Although, change is needed now, we must acknowledge late is always better than never…
Reusable Bags for your Grocery Shopping
Do your bit!
Make your own effort to carry a reusable bag when you head out shopping at the mall or to the grocery store. We know this can be tricky, and we easily forget to pack our shopping bags, but with bags such as Biowesome’s is less likely to happen, as they are pretty looking so will actually use it kinda as purse as well. Its especially pretty nice for shopping at malls. ( But hey it’s okay if you forget – don’t kick yourself – we’re all human!)
If you DO forget your reusable shopping bag, pack economically – do large items like toilet rolls without a bag, do they really need an extra bag before sitting in the trunk of your car?
Each time we say no to single use plastic, it’s another step towards a zero-waste world. And that’s better for everyone!
You can be part of the change and Biowesome, we have stylish reusable canvas grocery bags for your next shopping trip.
It comes with sewn-in compartments so you can keep things organized, separated, and protected, so your fragile tomatoes don’t get smashed by your cans. It also includes one inner pocket for your phone or wallet. It’s so big and sturdy, it is suitable even for heavy grocery shopping.
Grab it here in either beige or black, with our cute lemon design and quotes, to be the envy of all environment lovers at the store, and know that you’re doing your bit to save the world and all creatures in it!