Mexico City Requires Biodegradable Plastic Bags

Mexico City’s new law requiring all plastic bags to be biodegradable was put into place on Aug. 19, according to The CNN Wire. The ban affects retailers within the Federal District, which boasts a population of about 9 million, while another 10 million live just outside the city limits.

The new law makes Mexico City the second metropolitan area of its size in the Western Hemisphere to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags; San Francisco was the first to implement the ordinance in March 2007. Similar bans and plastic bag fees are on the table in other cities, such as Los Angeles and Seattle.

Mexico City has banned all plastic bags that are not biodegradable, affecting retailers in the metropolitan area. Photo: Flickr/Greenery

Mexico City banned all plastic bags that are not biodegradable, affecting retailers in the metropolitan area. Photo: Flickr/Greenery

The banning of plastic bags continues to be a hot topic around the globe. In a recent report, Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said plastic bags are the second-most common form of litter behind cigarette butts and are the greatest form of litter in the world’s oceans, as reported by CNN.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) encourages recycling plastic bags as it conserves energy by replacing virgin material necessary to manufacture of new products. In fact, it takes 91 percent less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper, according to the ACC.

Mexico City’s mandate is a part of the its initiative to improve its overall environmental impact. Along with the new plastic bag law, the government announced this month that it will place more than 1,100 bicycles at 84 stations throughout the city for residential use, according to The CNN Wire.

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  1. Plastic bags are a huge problem. I think that all cities should enforce similar laws just for sanitary reasons. Plastic bags clog sewage pipes and block storm water drains, causing dirty water to puddle on city streets. Check out this picture of a drain in New York City Now just where is all that water supposed to go?

  2. Don’t biodegradable plastics need to go to a composting facility in order to break down? They don’t naturally break down in a landfill because a landfill is an anaerobic system and nothing breaks down if not exposed to oxygen? In addition, if they did break down at a landfill they would be producing methane, which is one of the leading gases causing global climate change. I understand these bags are not made from petroleum products but, probably corn and other GMO products that use just as much petroleum in growing, harvest, and transporting than a traditional plastic bag would use.

    What is the Federal District’s strategy/plan for these biodegradable bags once the consumer is done with them? Are consumers expected to be put in the garbage and sent to landfill?

  3. I understand from some retailers in Pa. next year customers will be charged a quarter for each plastic bag they use. They want you to use the cloth ones you buy at the store & they hold a lot. I try to bring the cloth ones in the store with me & tell them I am picketing the plastic bags.

  4. Some great points on here… just a few comments:

    Kelly… your questions bring up some great points and your insight is refreshing compared to some of the responses i’ve seen on this site. Depending on the makeup of the plastic, anerobic digestion is still possible to break down the bag. However, you are crossing you thoughts a bit. In a landfill, EVERYTHING is exposed to oxygen to the breakdown is actually an areobic process but because of the composition of plastic, this takes an incredilbly long time to break down. Anaerobic digestion is a controlled process involving micro-organisms and the lack of oxygen in breaking down waste. You are correct that in a degestion process there is a release of significant methane gas.

    I’m actually part of a group that is looking into the economic viabiltiy of using anerobic digestion technology to handle unsorted waste. The bottom line is that most people are too lazy to recycle. So, why dont we develop a technology that takes this unsorted waste, processes it to recyclables and the percentage containing organic content. Then generate methane gas through controlled anerobic digestion and burn this gas to generate electricity. You’re waste stream to landfills is now significantly less, and its devoid of carbon content so the release of harmful gasses from the landfill is cut down significantly. Oh, and you make a bunch of money and create jobs…

    So, when it comes to plastic bags its seems that people are just lazy with their handling of them. Showing a storm sewer clogged up with plastic isnt the fault of the plastic. I could show you a storm sewer clogged up with reusable cloth bags too. Whooptie dooo. The issue is how the bags are reused and convincing the public that there are better options that will save them money.

    Oh and the idea with the community bikes will never work… punk kids will steal those bikes in about 2 seconds.

    Still cutting the loops on my six pack holder,

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