How countries outside Europe reduce plastic waste

Plastic pollution is a serious threat to our environment worldwide. While Europe is taking steps to reduce the share of plastic in litter via the SUP directive, there are also countries outside Europe that are committed to tackling the plastic soup. In this blog you can read how these countries contribute to the global fight against plastic pollution.

How the plastic bag is slowly disappearing from the face of the earth

The regulation of plastic bags is regarded worldwide as one of the most popular measures to combat plastic waste. Currently, more than 127 countries worldwide have taken active steps to limit or regulate the use of plastic bags.

Africa is at the forefront of this approach, with no less than 33 countries that have laws that restrict or prohibit the use of plastic bags and other disposable plastics. Countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have already banned the use of plastic bags, but one country stands out: Rwanda. Rwanda aims to be the first country in the world to be completely plastic-free. They strive for a society in which plastic no longer plays a role. The production, sale and use of plastic bags is even illegal there. If you do, you risk a fine and in extreme cases even a prison sentence of four years.

In North America, plastic bag regulations vary by city or state. Some examples of this are California, Hawaii and Montreal (Canada), where lightweight plastic bags are banned. In Latin America and the Caribbean, plastic bag regulations are mainly implemented at the city level. For example, Colombia has established specific regulations regarding the thickness of plastic bags, encouraging reuse and the use of recycled materials.

Paper bags are a good alternative to plastic bags. Cardboard bags can be used several times and are easily recyclable. Want to know more about the benefits of paper bags? You read it here.

Schildpad in plastic tas

What measures is China taking to reduce plastic waste?

In an important step towards a plastic-free future, the world's largest plastic producer introduced a ban on plastic bags in all major cities in early 2020. This initiative marks the start of a larger plan to tackle single-use plastics across the country. By 2025, the goal is to reduce the use of single-use plastic in the hospitality industry and restaurants by at least 30 percent. These measures are urgently needed in China, where the entire country is facing serious environmental problems due to plastic litter, which accumulates in rivers and lakes, among other places. The country was previously also a major importer of plastic waste, but stopped doing so in 2018.

How does the United States contribute to reducing the plastic soup?

The United States contributes to reducing plastic waste in several ways. While there is no uniform policy that applies nationwide, both individual states and local communities are taking steps to address plastic pollution. Many states have established extensive recycling programs to promote the recycling of plastic waste and thus reduce the amount of plastic released into the environment. Unfortunately, there are also cities that do not recognize the importance of a plastic-free world and are even trying to stop a ban on plastic bags, such as Oklahoma and Tennessee. On the other hand, states such as California are pushing for more progressive measures, proposing the gradual phase-out of non-recyclable plastics.

In addition to taking concrete measures, intensive research is also being done in the United States into new technologies and materials to reduce the impact of plastic pollution. Universities, research institutes and private companies are working together to develop biodegradable plastics, improved recycling methods and sustainable packaging alternatives. These efforts are focused on finding innovative solutions that reduce reliance on harmful plastic materials and enable the transition to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.

Towards a plastic-free future

Although there is not yet a comprehensive ban on plastic worldwide, other measures are being taken in addition to bans to reduce the use of plastic. Currently, 27 countries worldwide have opted for a plastic ban, often with an emphasis on disposable products such as plates, cups and straws. Some countries go even further by banning polystyrene completely or limiting the production of plastic. Such prohibitions are usually accompanied by specific exceptions. For example, in certain parts of Australia, there are exceptions for people with special medical needs regarding the ban on straws, cutlery, stirrers and plates.

It is striking that about 37% of the bans come from small island states, which amounts to ten countries. An example of this is Ecuador, which has banned the use of bags, straws and bottles in the Galapagos Islands in order to keep the area as free as possible of single-use plastics.

While there is still a long way to go in the global fight against plastic pollution, the measures taken outside the EU show that countries worldwide are taking action to tackle this issue. Are you participating? Switch to plastic-free disposables now.