On July 1st, Morocco passed a law to completely ban the nationwide production, sale, and distribution of plastic bags. It is part of the country’s heroic efforts to promote sustainability and become one of the world’s ‘green leaders’ as an environmentally friendly nation.
A little about Morocco…
Situated in North West Africa, Morocco is known to many of us as a land rich with spices, beautiful beaches, Arab-African architecture and of course, home to the famous market ‘souks’ of Marrakesh. For several years, this vibrant country has been working hard to create a green environment for its citizens while helping to combat wider, global environmental issues such as climate change and pollution. The country is hosting the global Climate Change Conference in November 2016, and it has expressed intentions to tackle carbon emissions and plastic waste.
What is the problem of plastic bags?
The issue of plastic waste is among the most critical environmental problems we face today. It is thought that we use between 600 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags a year, worldwide. As a cheap and easily accessible commodity, it’s no wonder they are so widely overused. The biggest consumer is the US, with a consumption of around 380 billion. Morocco is the second largest as each individual is thought to use up to 900 bags a year! This has led to Moroccan streets, parks and beaches being littered with the unpleasant and harmful remnants of discarded plastic bags.
As ugly as plastic bag waste may be, it’s the environmental damage caused that is a major concern. Both the production and disposal of plastic bags is extremely harmful as they are made from a complex mix of highly toxic pollutants that are not biodegradable. Their overuse is due to the fact that it is not convenient for modern society to have anything but strong, durable plastic bags. Durability means they may take between 100-400 years to fully decompose! The dumping of plastic bags on landfill sites releases toxins into the air, particularly through burning, and can even seep through into the earth. The toxins are inhaled by us and animals, causing respiratory issues and other health problems, not to mention the effects they have on the environment. If plastic waste reaches our waters, it can dangerously affect many marine ecosystems by contaminating the ocean and disrupting the food chain. To find out more about how plastic waste is affecting our Oceans, check out Better World’s recent article, here.
What is Morocco doing to help?
For many years, Morocco has been attempting to tackle the issue of plastic waste. The country’s rank as second largest consumer means they have a higher responsibility than others to reduce the harmful effects on the environment. The unsightly littering on the streets and beaches is detrimental to Moroccan tourism, so it would also benefit the country economically to solve the problem and make it more appealing to travelers.
In 2009, Morocco passed a law to ban the production and distribution of black plastic bags. Although this was not entirely successful, it was an important preliminary step forward and recently, on July 1st, 2016, it took the plunge and passed a law to completely ban all plastic bags in Morocco. The government is confident that these measures will bring about positive change to the environment, despite acknowledging that it may take years for individuals and businesses to fully adapt their lifestyles to this law. To help people adjust, the government has:
- Invested millions into companies concerned with the production and distribution of bags to encourage them to transform production
- Promised that it will provide several alternatives to plastic bags such as bags made from fabric and paper
- Created media campaigns and provided information to notify and educate Moroccans on environmental issues
To ensure this law is effectively enforced, any individual or company that does not comply will be punished with heavy fines.
Morocco is the latest to join with several other African countries such as Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and South Africa in the total banning of plastic bags. Nations like India, China, Australia, Argentina and most of Europe have also joined the crusade against toxic plastic waste with either a ban or taxes being placed on plastic bags.
How you can contribute to the plastic bag-free movement:
- When you next go shopping, remember to bring fabric or paper bags instead of plastic. If you can’t do this, try and re-use plastic bags you already have at home
- Bottled water is a big contributor to plastic waste. Always opt to use reusable bottles or you could try carrying water in a flask
- At the grocery, make a conscious effort to buy fewer food items that come with a lot of plastic packaging – it will add up!
- Get involved and recycle everything possible
- If you’re feeling really proactive, you could petition local businesses to reduce their plastic waste and educate them on how they could do this
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