(NEW YORK) — Only three states in the U.S. have passed laws banning single-use plastic bags as the global war on plastic production and waste continues to escalate, a new study reveals.
Plastic bags, when discarded, clog sewage and storm drains plus entangle and kill an estimated 100,000 marine animals annually, according to a study released on Wednesday by Reuse This Bag, which makes custom reusable grocery and shopping bags.
The average plastic bag is used for 12 minutes, and shoppers collectively use about 500 billion single-use bags each year, which averages out to about 150 bags per person, according to the study.
“Luckily, we’re starting to see communities around the U.S., and the world, mobilize to reduce waste by banning, taxing, or otherwise limiting the use of these plastic bags,” the study states.
California, Hawaii and New York have all banned plastic bags on a statewide level.
While a state-mandated ban has not been issued in Hawaii, all of the state’s counties ban plastic bags but generally still allow for use of 100% recyclable bags, the study states.
New York passed its statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in March, but it doesn’t go into effect until March 1, 2020. Individual counties in the Empire State will also have the option of charging 5 cents per paper bag.
Four states — Delaware, Maine, Rhode Island and New York — have mandatory recycling or reuse programs in place.
Ten states, including Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and Wisconsin, have passed preemptive bans on banning plastic bags, according to the study, which drew on pubic information from the National Conference of State Legislators as well as state-level and country-level reports.
About 200 U.S. municipalities have banned or taxed plastic bags, which has had largely positive outcomes, according to the study.
Washington, D.C., imposed a 5-cent tax on all single-use plastic bags after studies found them to be the single largest source of pollution in local waterways, the study said.
San Jose, California, has seen an 89% reduction of plastic bags in storm drains, a 60% reduction in rivers and a 59% reduction in residential areas since a ban was put into place in 2012, according to the study.
In Seattle, the study says a 48% reduction of plastic bags in residential waste and a 76% reduction in commercial waste has occurred since the ban took place in 2014. In 2010, there were 262 tons of plastic bags in landfills, but that number had dropped to 136 tons in 2014, the study states.
Elsewhere in the world, 32 countries have passed laws banning plastic bags, according to study. Nearly half of those countries are located in Africa, where plastic bags frequently clog drains, leading to increased mosquito swarms and the spread of malaria.
In Kenya, making, selling or importing plastic bags could land the perpetrator a fine of up to $19,000 and four years in jail, according to the study.
A full ban on plastic bags was adopted in China in 2008, leading to a reduction of about 40 billion bags. India passed its ban in 2002.
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