Chile is making history as it is set to become the first South American country to completely ban the use of plastic bags.
The law was unanimously approved by Congress and will be enforced within a year for retailers and within two years for smaller businesses. Before being fully enforced, retailers will be allowed to provide a maximum of two plastic bags for customers to use for their purchased items. But once the legislation is in full force, offenders can face a fine of up to $230,000.
After the decision was made, President Sebastian Piñera tweeted: “We have taken a fundamental step to take better care of Chile and the planet. Today we are more prepared to leave a better planet to our children, grandchildren and the generations to come.”
Many countries have taken huge steps in making more eco-friendly decisions. It can be something as simple as using more recycled materials, like steel, which has 90% recycled content, or something as big as banning plastic bags country-wide.
The idea was first introduced by Chile’s former president Michelle Bachelet. Originally, the bill was designed to only impact Patagonia, but was ultimately extended nationwide. Luckily, the bill was welcomed by the new administration. Now the bill will be passed on to the Chamber of Deputies to be formalized before being enforced.
President Sebastian Piñera took Bachelet’s idea of banning plastic bags in coastal cities and pushed for it to be extended to the entire nation. The Association of Plastic Manufacturers provided data showing that Chile uses more than 3.4 billion plastic bags each year. This amounts to about 200 bags being used by a single person every year. With this new law in place, there will be significantly less plastic waste being contributed by this country annually.
Currently, if just one person used reusable bags throughout their lifetime, they could help remove over 22,000 plastic bags from the environment. Because of figures like this, more countries are stepping up to reduce the use of plastic bags. But the only other country in the Americas that has plans in place regarding plastic bags is Costa Rica, which plans to have a ban in place by 2021. Some states throughout the U.S. and Canada have similar bans, but none as extensive as this.
This legislation is a huge accomplishment and experts hope that other countries will look to Chile as an example and make similar movements to help our planet.