Despite criticism from Italian plastic trade groups, Italy was the first EU country to ban plastic bags (implemented at the beginning of this year), and now countries around the world are giving consideration to similar legislation.
France, which has been slow in adopting consumer plastic reduction measures, has now given the go-ahead for a 'plastic tax' (EUR10 per kilogram of plastic bags) to take effect in 2014, and the African countries of Togo and Kenya have this week announced forthcoming plastic bag bans.
In the United States (US), Hawaii has become the latest state to pass plastic bag restrictions, outlawing bags for customers of merchants in Hawaii's Kaua'i and Maui counties. Unlike the 2007 landmark ban in San Francisco, the new Maui mandate prohibits both compostable and non-compostable bags, due to the dangers bags in general present to marine life. (The 'great Pacific garbage patch' – an area twice the size of Texas covered in floating rubbish – lies between the two states.) The Kaua'i legislation dictates that biodegradable bags are permissible: bags that contain "no polymers derived from fossil fuels, and will decompose at a rate comparable to biodegradable material", however there are currently no bags that meet those criteria available in the state.
California, meanwhile, has faced difficulty in expanding its plastic banning legislation. While six of the state's areas have stringent ban measures in place, a further ban in the Marin County area has been delayed due to campaigning by the Save The Plastic Bag Coalition.
The group – which has successfully blocked plastic bag bans in other California cities – told the Marin County Board of Supervisors that it would sue if a ban was enacted because the county has not conducted an environmental impact report as required by California law. As such, a planned vote on the banning of plastic bags and enforcement of a five cent paper bag charge has been postponed until January 25.
The coalition argued that the ban could have a significant negative net impact on the environment” if it results in an increased use of paper bags.
So far, 14 communities in the US have passed legislation to ban plastic bags.