State Votes to Ban Single Use Plastics

We saw this coming

A unanimous vote on July 18th by Baja California Sur (BCS) state lawmakers sent environmental groups into cheers. The law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environment Protection of the State was amended to institute a ban on straws, plastic bags, and the use of polystyrene containers at businesses throughout the state.

Due to the variety of companies effected by the amendment, and the logistics involved in the replacement of such a large portion of stock, there will be two time limits for local business and large retailers to comply with the move. Supermarkets, convenience stores, markets, and restaurants will have 12 months to make the switch while larger wholesale and retail stores will have 18 months to ditch their plastics.

The state will need to ensure that businesses comply with the amendment and replace straws, plastic bags, and polystyrene with biodegradable materials. Several stores already provide for-purchase reusable bags, such as Wal-Mart and Chedraui. Some alternatives to plastics include plant-based plastics, bamboo straws, reusable canvas bags, and biodegradable food containers. Additionally, the state government will set the environmental standards, guidelines, and criteria for the production and sustainable consumption of plastics.

BCS will incorporate the Program for the Prevention and Integral Management of Waste as a component in campaigns based on the principles “reduce, reuse, and recycle”. Local non-profits working in social and business sectors, key drivers in the passage of the amendment, will also set up campaigns in the coming months to raise awareness of the new bans and to provide ideas to the community and businesses on how to comply with the new standards.

To fight plastic pollution, governments have implemented bans or taxes in cities, states, and countries around the world. In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country to ban plastic bags and a decade ago, in Mexico City, a ban on plastic bags was implemented, but largely ignored. However, currently there is a new wave of plastic pollution awareness.

The Blue Planet II phenomenon, referring to the ocean film documentary narrated by David Attenborough, kickstarted a movement in the UK this year as the government and many businesses re-thought plastic use. Some business implemented a charge for plastic bags and coffee cups. Giant food corporations such as McDonalds and Starbucks announced they are dropping the plastic straw and replacing it with paper straws or newly designed lids. Even the Wonderful World of Disney announced that they will drop plastic straws and stir sticks at all their locations.

Mexico is hopping on the bandwagon too, and not just in BCS. In April of this year, a town two hours north of Mexico City, Queretaro, banned some plastics. The states Jalisco, Veracruz, Nuevo León, Durango, and Sonora all have bans in place or in the works.

In some places, the reliance on plastics has revealed the difficulties of such implementations, and so, the state of Baja California Sur is struggling to meet this challenge. Nevertheless, successful plastic bans have occurred in cities around the world. The local BCS governments and non-profits will work with the BCS population in the coming months to raise awareness and provide as easy a transition as possible.