American Samoa has become the first U.S. state or territory to ban plastic bags

By Lucy Brake - 15 Nov 2010 13:4:0 GMT
American Samoa has become the first U.S. state or territory to ban plastic bags

There are countries taking the lead in banning plastic bags from stores nationwide, including Australia, South Africa and Ireland.

But whilst some cities in the U.S already have plastic bag bans, such as San Francisco and Portland, there is no territory or state wide legislation in place.

American Samoa has taken the first big step and set in law the banning of plastic bags. The ban includes any non-biodegradable or non-compostable plastic bags that are petroleum based.

The Governor of American Samoa, Togiola Tulafono, who endorsed the ban into legislation, commented that "the move is a step in the right direction towards protecting the natural beauty of our islands and our native land and sea creatures."

Plastic bags have long been a major issue for pacific island countries, as they infest the landscape, get into streams and pollute the oceans. Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to biodegrade and, until that time, they create hazards for marine creatures and add to landfill waste.

This new legislation will help reduce the waste on the small island nation of American Samoa, as well as protect their precious environment. The move has been well received by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.

"We welcome American Samoa's leadership in the Pacific islands to ban plastic shopping bags," said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, "this action will decrease the amount of plastic waste in the territory and directly protect marine and bird life in the Pacific".

This action by the Government of American Samoa will also contribute to halting the growth of the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch'; which is a problem of much concern to the countries of the Pacific and beyond.

This is the name given to two giant areas of waste floating around the North Pacific that is made up of marine rubbish, mainly plastic. So from the beginning of 2011 it will be illegal for shops to give out plastic bags in American Samoa, and this might just inspire other US territories and states to follow their example.

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Topics: Waste / Pollution