How to begin the dreaded plastic conversation.

Plastic bags were first introduced at supermarkets in 1977 and are usually provided by stores for no extra cost to hold customers’ items. This means that people all over the world are taking home multiple plastic bags and then disposing of them and getting more the next time they go to the store.

“…plastic production has exploded over the last half-century, growing from 16.5 million tons in 1964 to 343 million tons in 2014; it is projected to double by 2036.” 

Renee Cho

In the United States, out of the millions of tons of plastic that gets discarded each year, often less than 10 percent gets recycled.

In general, if all countries banned the production of harmful plastics, that would be the most Eco-friendly solution to this problem; however, that is a massive task that would likely take centuries to accomplish.

With such a large task at hand and a growing concern for the harm that plastics have on the world, several countries have taken action against one common polluter: the plastic bag. About 16 countries around the world have heavy taxes, charges or bans on plastic bags.

Beginning this fight against plastic with a smaller step, such as charging people for every plastic bag they use at a store, will benefit the environment and make a plastic ban slightly simpler.

All countries in the United Kingdom now charge for new plastic bags at some stores. In England, there are various stipulations, such as the size and type of store, that determine whether or not there is a charge for plastic bags.

Where will the money go?

“Initially to the supermarkets. This is not a tax and the money raised by the levy will not go to the government.

Retailers can choose what to do with the proceeds of the charge, but they are expected to donate it to good causes.

Over the next 10 years the government hopes the charge will raise £730m for such causes.

Retailers will need to report to ministers about what they do with the money, and the government will publish this information each year.”

The United States has not imposed as many plastic bag legislation’s as some of the other countries around the world have; however, there are several states that have various programs in place to deal with the plastic bag pollution issue.

50 state map showing states with enacted plastic bag legislation

As shown in the map above, only one state has enacted legislation for fees or taxes on plastic bags. While having recycling and reuse programs are incredibly important to help the environment and banning the bags all together is a strong move as well, adding fees lowers the use of the bags, is more likely to be effective in a shorter time span, and it creates funds to put back into stores and into the environment.

With every new political move, there are both positives and negatives; however, adding a fee to all plastic bags in stores would create a long lasting, positive effect on the planet. This is the best way to begin the movement against plastic pollution.

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