U.N. Calls for Global Ban on Plastic Bags

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Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Program Achim Steiner is advocating a global ban on plastic bags because there is “zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere,” he says.

Steiner’s comment came from a UNEP report that identifies plastic as the most common form of ocean litter, along with cigarette butts, according to the results of the 2008 International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Photo: Thefourthside.wordpress.com

According to the ACC, more than 830 million pounds of bags and film were recycled nationwide in 2007. Photo: Thefourthside.wordpress.com

“Plastic, the most prevalent component of marine debris, poses hazards because it persists so long in the ocean, degrading into tinier and tinier bits that can be consumed by the smallest marine life at the base of the food web,” the report says.

Currently, San Francisco is the only U.S. city that has completely banned plastic bags. China is also testing the same ban in which retailers distributing plastic bags can be fined up to $1,464.

However, Keith Christman, senior director for the plastics division of the American Chemisty Council (ACC) tells McClatchy Newspapers that most “single-use” plastic bags are often reused.

“A ban on plastic bags could also cause some unintended consequences,” he says referring to the increased demand for paper bags that could double greenhouse emissions and create “a dramatic increase in waste.”

According to the ACC, because plastic grocery bags are lightweight, they require 70 percent less energy to manufacture than paper bags. Also, for every seven trucks needed to deliver paper bags, only one truck is needed for the same number of plastic bags, which reduces emissions and saves energy during transport.

While a global ban on plastic bags may seem far-fetched, Christman recommends recycling your plastic bags. The ACC is aiming for plastic bags to be manufactured with 40 percent recycled content by 2015, which is expected to reduce waste by 300 million pounds per year.