It is estimated that 1 to 5 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. This translates to almost 10 million plastic bags per minute. If tied together, all these plastic bags could be wrapped around the world 7 times every hour. But here is the thing; many countries across the world are increasingly taking action against this pollution menace. According to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme, more than 60 countries have introduced bans and levies to curb single-use plastic waste. Amongst these is Kenya and Rwanda.
The report however notes that for greater effectiveness, there is more to just banning these plastic bag. “If properly planned and enforced, (the ban) can effectively counter one of the causes of plastic overuse. Nevertheless, to tackle the roots of the problem, governments need to improve waste management practices and introduce financial incentives to change the habits of consumers, retailers and manufacturers, enacting strong policies that push for a more circular model of design and production of plastics,” notes this report.
Governments, notes this report titled; Single-use Plastics, a roadmap for sustainability, are challenged to finance more research and development on alternative materials, raise awareness among consumers, fund innovation, ensure plastic products are properly labeled and carefully weigh possible solutions to the current crisis.
Governments must also engage a broad range of stakeholders in the decision-making process as they seek to tackle the crisis. To meet the rising tide of plastics, we urgently need strong government leadership and intervention. Plastic bags and, to a certain extent, foamed plastic products like Styrofoam have been the main focus of governments action so far.
“Plastic packaging accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste globally, and much of it is thrown away within just a few minutes of its first use. Much plastic may be single-use, but that does not mean it is easily disposable. When discarded in landfills or in the environment, plastic can take up to a thousand years to decompose,” Erik Solheim Head of UN Environment.
The good news, according to Erik Solheim, is that a growing number of governments are taking action and demonstrating that all nations, whether rich or poor, can become global environmental leaders. “Rwanda, a pioneer in banning single-use plastic bags, is now one of the cleanest nations on earth. Kenya has followed suit, helping clear its iconic national parks and save its cows from an unhealthy diet,” notes the Head of UN Environment.