Last week, people were horrified when a pilot whale that had been discovered in a canal in Thailand spit out five plastic bags and later died, despite the work of a team of veterinarians. An official from the country’s Marine and Coastal Resources Department said later that 17 pounds’ worth of plastic waste were found in the stomach of the whale. In April, a sperm whale washed ashore in Spain with a gut full of more than 60 pounds of trash, including plastic bags and a plastic drum.
Across the globe, advocates are working to keep such things from happening again, pushing bans of various single-use plastic items – bans that could potentially impact the promotional products industry by encouraging more businesses to invest in branded reusable plastic alternatives, such as tote bags. Europe, for example, has proposed a ban on the 10 items that make up 70% of all litter in European waters and beaches. Among the items on the list are plastic cutlery, straws, plates and drink stirrers. The draft rules require the approval of all EU member states and the European Parliament, a process that could take several years.
Reducing harmful plastic litter is an opportunity for European businesses.— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) May 28, 2018
We can create sustainable products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extract more economic value from our precious resources.#PlasticsStrategy #PassOnPlastic pic.twitter.com/19mCvxlJOq
In addition to banning plastic products, the EU legislation would make plastic producers bear the cost of waste management and cleanup efforts. Plus, the EU proposes that member states must collect 90% of single-use plastic bottles by 2025 for recycling. The rules could cost businesses more than $3.5 billion a year, the European Commission estimates. However, they could also save consumers $7.6 billion a year, create 30,000 jobs and avoid $25.6 billion in environmental cleanup costs, according to the estimates.
Environmental groups called the draft legislation a “leap forward in tackling plastic pollution,” but plastic manufacturers said bans are not the solution, calling for more resources to be devoted to waste management instead.
Meanwhile, Chile is poised to become the first nation in the Americas to ban retail businesses from using plastic bags, in an effort to protect the country’s 4,000-mile coastline. Large retailers and supermarkets have six months to comply with the ban, with smaller businesses given two years to make the change.
“We’re convinced that our coast imposes an obligation to be leaders in cleaning up our oceans,” environment minister Marcela Cubillos told The New York Times. According to the ministry, Chileans use more than 3.4 million plastic bags a year, with the bulk ending up in landfills or the ocean.
Elsewhere, the New York City Council is considering a ban on plastic straws at eateries across the five boroughs. It’s the latest of several measures meant to reduce plastic pollution in the Empire State. City Council is also considering a ban on sales of disposable plastic bottles at city parks, beaches and golf courses, while New York’s governor has proposed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.
“It’s important for New Yorkers to understand that the plastic straw is not a necessity,” the straw bill’s lead sponsor, Councilman Rafael L. Espinal Jr., told The New York Times. “It’s more of a luxury, and our luxury is causing great harm to other environments.”
More than 60 New York restaurants have already gone straw-free, according to The New York Times. If the ban passes, violators could face fines starting at $100.
Espinal said he believes the straw ban won’t be a burden for most New Yorkers, and will just require a “change of thinking.” He points to alternate products, including paper, bamboo and aluminum straws that could replace the harmful plastic versions. Indeed, many entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative solutions to make reusable straws more convenient: FinalStraw, for example, raised about $1.9 million on Kickstarter to manufacture collapsible metal straws stored in compact keychain carrying cases.