By Tooka Pourgive

04 January 2019

Plastic pollution is one of the biggest challenges facing coastal areas. Plastic does not degrade over time; rather it breaks down into smaller particles and ends up in our oceans. 8 million metric tons of plastic goes into the ocean each year. Water contamination and sand pollution due to micro plastic particles have heavily affected marine life, and in turn, us.  The recent single-use plastic ban approval by the EU parliament reflects a great shift in consciousness of the European community on the consumption of single use plastics.

But Europe isn’t alone in their quest to reduce plastic consumption; South Korea recently banned single-use plastic bags across its supermarkets and bakeries, with a few exceptions to carry meat and fish products. Violation of the ban has a fine of about 3 million won, the equivalent of nearly 2,400 Euros.

Kenya is yet another country which has effectively banned plastic bags all together, from production, to sale, and use. A heavy fine of 30,000$ or a four-year jail sentence is issued to offenders. According to the UNEP Single-use plastics report, Costa Rica recently banned and announced that it will eliminate their use of ALL single-use plastics by 2021. Other countries such as Spain, Portugal, Canada, and Australia are now charging consumers for plastic bag use.

The United States, as one of the top five plastic polluters and producers, under the presidency of Trump, pulled out of the Paris Agreement a year ago. The Paris Agreement is a set of conventions to end climate change. Even so, some cities have taken matters into their own hands; San Franciso, CA for example, has completely banned plastic bags since 2007, and Boston did so as well, in December 2018.

As Trump disbelieves climate change altogether, environmental regulations have been reduced, and instead, oil drillings have increased. The backward Trump trend has influenced other leaders with similar mentalities, such as in Russia, Turkey, and Brazil. The new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, compares in many ways to Trump in his controversial and racist beliefs. Following suit, Brazil is turning its back to the climate conferences, and doing so, is threatening the lungs of the world, as a major part of the amazon rainforest falls on Brazilian territory.

With nationalistic ideologies on the rise, traditional heavily petrol-centric industries continue to have support, however, the devastations caused by plastic pollution can no longer be ignored. The elimination of petroleum based single use plastics is fundamental for sustainable development.

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