Countries and regions in Asia-Pacific are joining the fight to reduce plastic waste amid mounting concerns about the dire consequences of microplastic pollution in the oceans.
New Zealand has announced a plan to phase in a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags in 2019. Taiwan has said it will impose a blanket ban on single-use plastic products by 2030.
Taiwan's plastic ban will also be phased in over time. By 2030, a flat-out ban will be imposed on single-use plastic shopping bags, cups, saucers and straws. Consumers will be charged for using these products, starting in 2025.
In Australia, the states of Queensland and Western Australia introduced a ban on single-use plastic bags in July. The state of Victoria, where the city of Melbourne is located, has announced plans to take the same step in 2019.
According to the United Nations Environment Program, at least 67 countries and areas in the world have introduced regulatory restrictions on the use of plastics, such as bans or levies on single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam products.
A large majority of these countries and areas are located in Africa, where 25 nations have adopted restrictions on plastics, and Europe, where the figure is 22. Only eight Asian countries and five in Oceania have joined the list.
Asia was a front-runner in tackling plastic pollution. In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban plastic bags. In 2008, China banned plastic shopping bags except for those made of biodegradable materials. India introduced similar regulatory measures in 2016. In June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a plan to eliminate all single-use plastics by 2022.
In industrial nations, efforts to recycle plastics have made progress, but nearly 80% of the plastic waste ever produced in the world has now been left in landfill, dumps or out in the environment, while about 12% has been incinerated. Just 9% has been recycled, according to recent estimates.
Every year, 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean, according to the World Economic Forum. If no effective steps are taken to reduce the amount of plastic entering the water, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by weight.
Source: NIKKEI ASIAN REVIEW
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