Planet or Plastic?

A Running List of Action on Plastic Pollution

The world is waking up to a crisis of ocean plastic—and we're tracking the developments and solutions as they happen. Friday, 13 July

By Brian Clark Howard

This story is part of Planet or Plastic?—our multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Learn what you can do to reduce your own single-use plastics, and take your pledge.

The world has a plastic pollution problem and it’s snowballing—but so is public awareness and action.

Each year, an estimated 8.16 billion kilos of plastic waste enters the world’s oceans from coastal regions. That’s about equivalent to five grocery bags of plastic waste piled up on every foot of coastline on the planet. All that plastic is causing harm to the creatures that live in the ocean, from coral reefs smothered in bags, to turtles gagging on straws, to whales and seabirds that starve because their bellies are so jammed with bits of plastic that there’s no room for real food.

New research is emerging apace about the possible long-term impacts of tiny pieces of plastic on the marine food chain—raising fresh questions about how it might ultimately impact human health and food security.

About 40 percent of all plastic produced is used in packaging, and much of that is used only once and then discarded. Less than a fifth of all plastic is recycled, though many countries and businesses are trying innovative solutions to increase that number.

National Geographic magazine devoted a special cover package to plastic in June 2018, and since then, the issue has received more attention from the media, public, and politicians the world over. Here, we track some of the developments around this important issue. We will update this article periodically as news develops.

CHILE’S BAN ON RETAIL PLASTIC BAGS STANDS

July 6, 2018

Chile’s Constitutional Court ratified a bill that bans retail use of plastic bags across the country on July 6, ruling against an appeal that had been filed by the plastics industry. In June, Chile’s Congress had unanimously approved the new ban, citing concerns of plastic pollution in the ocean and on land.

The country’s Association of Industrial Plastics had sued to block the new law on constitutional grounds. But the court rejected their arguments.

Large retailers will have six months to phase out single-use plastic bags, while small businesses will have up to two years. The ban builds on a law passed under the previous president that had called for a prohibition on plastic bags along the country’s 4,000-mile coastline.

In announcing the new ban, Marcela Cubillos, Chile’s environment minister, told the New York Times, “We are convinced that our coast imposes an obligation to be leaders in cleaning up our oceans.”

Chile’s ban is the first country-wide one in the Americas. Similar bans have been passed in China, Kenya, France, and elsewhere. Many regional and local areas have bans or other restrictions, including taxes or fees aimed at discouraging the use of single-use plastic bags.

This story was originally published on NationalGeographic.com