Plastic Free July: How 20 countries are taking action


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Sustainable Ocean Alliance is accelerating ocean solutions around the world. Here are their stories.

Plastics are incredibly harmful to our marine ecosystems. Did you know: 

  • 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our ocean daily
  • 79% of plastic waste is sent to landfills or the ocean, while only 9% is recycled and 12% is incinerated
  • 1 million marine animals die due to plastic pollution every year
  • It takes anywhere from 500-1,000 years for plastics to decompose

In honor of Plastic Free July – a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – we want to celebrate the strides being made around the world to reduce plastic waste. Our Youth Policy Advisory Council has been tracking the ways policymakers are working to create cleaner streets, beautiful communities, and a healthy and thriving ocean. Keep reading to learn how 20 countries are taking action and making an impact.

In 2021, the Canadian government drafted Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations. The aim of these regulations will be to prohibit the manufacture, import, and sale of six categories of single-use plastics, including checkout bags, cutlery and ring carriers. The implementation of these measures is not yet in place.

Since 2021, China has banned single-use plastic bags and utensils from major cities, and single-use straws were banned nationwide.

Earlier this year, Chile started phasing out single-use plastics at restaurants and food delivery services. These changes will take full effect by 2024, and are projected to reduce more than 23,000 tons of plastics annually.

Egypt has launched several social enterprises to tackle plastic pollution. Banlastic delivers workshops, training, beach clean-ups, and various environmental events as a way of offering alternatives to single-use plastic. So far, they have collected over 2000 kgs of plastic waste. Egypt’s Minister of Environment, Yasmine Fouad, announced a partnership with Banlastic to reduce plastic waste across Egypt’s coastal regions in cooperation with the World Bank in March 2021.

Fiji has banned plastic bags made of polyethylene (PET) and placed a plastic bag levy, to deter consumers from using plastic bags and encourage using reusable bags for shopping.

In Ghana, Nelplast Ghana recycles plastic waste into bricks, which allows builders in the country to create sturdy housing cheaper than ones made of steel and cement. The company now recycles between 2500-3000 tons of plastic waste daily – reducing plastic pollution and providing employment.

RELATED | Five Easy Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint

Starting July 2022, India has banned the production and use of single-use plastics. Through Northeastern states, India is promoting bamboo-based alternatives to plastic in an effort to provide economic opportunities to local indigenous communities. In different regions, plates, straws, and other alternatives to single-use plastics are being made from sugarcane, leaves, etc. There are also booths set up in different parts of the country where plastics and bottles can be exchanged for money, gift cards, and free food.

A presidential decree in 2018 created a plan to reduce marine plastic debris by 2025. Furthermore, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry enacted a roadmap to reduce un-recycled plastic waste by 30% in 2030.

Japan is implementing a plastic recycling strategy for single-use plastics. The plan states that the government will promote legislation to stop the use of plastic products and the export of plastic packaging materials and e-waste.

Gjenge Makers, a Nairobi-based startup founded by Nzambi Matee, has created lightweight, low-cost building material made of recycled plastic and sand that’s stronger than concrete. Additionally, plastic bags are banned in commercial and household packaging. The government has also banned visitors from carrying single-use plastic into Kenya's protected areas.

Mexico City has launched an initiative focused on reducing waste through the promotion of a social culture focused on waste separation and proper disposal at transfer stations. Mexico City has also banned the marketing, distribution, and delivery of single-use plastics. Other states in Mexico are starting to implement this same initiative such as Quintana Roo.

Namibia has banned single-use plastic bags in protected areas, and is charging a fee for using them in shops across the country. The revenue from the fees are channeled to an Environmental Investment Fund (EIF) to improve waste management.

The Netherlands requires manufacturers and importers to pay for and organize the collection and recycling of packaging. The percentage of materials used for packaging that is recycled must increase every year. EPS containers and cups are banned, and so are free plastic bags.

Norway’s Pollution Control Act prevents littering and marine plastic pollution. Consumers and companies also receive incentives for recycling. This program has become so strong that 88% of plastic bottles are recycled today. Norway plans to spend 1.4 Billion NOK (200 Million USD) to combat marine litter and microplastics by 2024.

Palau’s Plastic Bag Use Reduction Act prohibits the distribution of plastic bags by retail establishments and bans importing plastic bag products. Palau has also implemented a Zero Disposable Plastic Policy, banning all disposable plastic and polystyrene beverage containers from being served to employees or guests on government property. In addition, he country has created air pollution regulations prohibiting the open burning of plastic waste, which can release toxins and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

Since 2020, Portugal has banned free plastic bags in all commercial businesses, along with single-use plastic from catering services.

Russia plans to ban the use of disposable plastics by 2024. Currently, producers are required to pay for 10% of the environmental costs associated with plastics, with the goal of increasing this extended producer responsibility to 100%.

The government has prohibited the import, manufacturing, distribution, and sale of plastic bags, plastic utensils, and polystyrene boxes. As an alternative, biodegradable bags and materials are to be used.

Spain is instituting a fee on single-use plastic containers and another fee for depositing landfill waste and incineration. This law has to help Spain to correct the course in the management of its waste. The marketing of certain single-use plastic utensils such as straws, glasses and plates will be banned, and the addition of microplastics to cosmetics or cleaning products will be prohibited.

United States
Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shared its National Recycling Strategy, with the goal to increase the recycling rate to 50% by 2030. Additionally, the Department of Energy launched the Plastics Innovation Challenge in 2018 to coordinate initiatives on plastic recycling, degradation, upcycling, and design for circularity. The goals of this program are to develop solutions that deliver greater than 50% energy savings, address greater than 90% of plastics, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50%.

Learn more about Plastic Free July by clicking here >>


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