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article imagePlastic bags banned in one of world's most populous regions

By Karen Graham     Jan 25, 2017 in Environment
India's National Capital Region is home to 54 million people, and the use of plastic bags and cups has been outlawed since the first day of January. They join a select club that also includes Puerto Rico and the state of California.
On January 1, India's National Green Tribunal (NGT) enacted a ban on one-time use plastic bags and cups in the world's second largest urban population, reports EcoWatch.
Digital Journal has reported on huge dump fires in Mumbai, India last year, one so large it could be seen from space. New Delhi's three main trash dumps — Okhla, Gazipur and Bhalswa are also prone to fires that burn for days and weeks, sometimes.
The Ghazipur landfill in East Delhi is now being used in the waste-to-energy project.
The Ghazipur landfill in East Delhi is now being used in the waste-to-energy project.
Energy Next-India
These dumps "are a depiction of the mess that can be created for the environment and health of people in Delhi,' said India's NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar.
Kumar went on to say that Delhi uses "waste-to-energy" plants to produce electricity, but when the plants are burning plastics, they spew toxic fumes into the atmosphere, plus the plastic the isn't burned ends up clogging the Yamuna River, the second largest tributary of the Ganges. Under the new ban, the waste-to-energy plants will be fined $7,500 for each infraction of the law.
Many people, including shopkeepers and businesses, didn't know about the ban until it went into effect, and that has caused some problems because they were unprepared. An unnamed stationery shop owner in Meherchand Market told The Hindu. "We have already started keeping cloth bags instead of plastic ones, but we haven't been able to fully stop using plastic as customers ask for it."
But even so, environmentalists applaud the action. And India's bag ban couldn't have come soon enough. A 2016 study ranked India as the world's 12th largest plastics polluter and the country is expected to be pushed up to number five, not a great statistic.
Puerto Rico ban on plastic bags
New Delhi joins American Territory, Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.54 million people in banning the use of plastic bags. This past December, Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed into law the Act for the Promotion of Reusable Bags and Regulation of Plastic Bags in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Act 247-2015.
The law bans retail and commercial businesses from handing out disposable plastic bags and became effective on December 24, 2016. Businesses are requested to place signs at entrances and cash registers informing the public of the law. For the first six months, businesses violating the law will get a warning. After that first warning, fines will be meted out.
As an island nation in the Caribbean that heavily relies on tourism, Puerto Rico takes the environment seriously and wants to promote clean litter-free beaches and scenery. Removing plastic bags from the picture is one way of doing this. It also opens up business opportunities for the creation of one-of-a-kind reusable shopping bags, says Factory Direct Promos.
First state to ban plastic bags
And California has become the first state in the U.S. to ban the use of disposable plastic bags. With only 38.8 million people, its population lags behind the New Delhi Capital Region, but that is still a lot of people impacted by the new law that went into effect immediately when it passed on election day 2016, reports the Sacramento Bee.
Almost 90 percent of the world s seabirds have plastics in their intestines.
Almost 90 percent of the world's seabirds have plastics in their intestines.
Chris Jordan/Greenpeace
The ban applies to apply to large food retailers, pharmacies, corner markets and liquor stores but not restaurants or department stores. Called Proposition 67, the statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags was approved by a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent of voters. Consumers who still forget to bring a reusable bag when they go shopping will have to pay a minimum of 10 cents for a paper bag or heavier, reusable plastic bag.
It is estimated that Californians use about 13 million disposable plastic bags every year. The use of the bags and their impact on the environment swayed many concerned voters.
People were concerned with them clogging recycling machines and polluting streets, streams, creeks and beaches. And there have been quite a number of studies on plastic pollution in our oceans and the impact of plastics on turtles, whales, and other marine animals that are harmed by swallowing the plastic debris.
New Delhi, Puerto Rico and California all get a big "Green Thumbs Up" from Digital Journal. What a great way to start the new year.
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