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The History of Plastic Bag Bans

by Broadway Industries | Posted in: Food Service Packing Supplies Pharmacy Textiles

The demand for legislatures to take action against plastic bags has surged in the last few years. But what is fueling these regulations and where have bans already been implemented?

Environmental Impact of Plastic Bags

It may not be too surprising, but environmental concerns surrounding plastic bans can be traced all the way back to their introduction in the United States in the 1980s. These concerns were only exacerbated as more and more plastic waste was discovered in the oceans over the following decades.

In May 2019, divers explored the world’s deepest ocean trench and found plastic and other litter. This was the third time that plastic was found lurking in the deepest explored parts of the ocean.

To activists, it’s not just about the presence of plastic in the ocean, but its impact on the entire marine ecosystem. It’s estimated that plastic pollution has affected 86% of sea turtles, 44% of all seabird species and 43% of all marine mammal species.[1]

Flooding Prompted the First Plastic Ban

In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to take legal steps towards banning plastic bags. This was because thin bags that had been thrown away were clogging drains and causing floods. Critics have called the ban an unsuccessful deterrent, due to the remaining high demand from consumers for easy-to-use plastic bags and lack of valid alternatives that deliver as much convenience.

Nearly twenty years later, scientists are still looking to recreate alternatives that feel and perform like a plastic bag, but are composed of alternative materials such as jute.

Plastic Bans in the United States

In the United States, there are over 300 regulations already in place. But, there are no consistent standards even within states that have enacted a state-wide ban. Some jurisdictions have implemented a fee or tax on plastic, paper or even reusable bags. Others have only banned plastic bags that are less than a certain thickness. Some ordinances make exceptions for pharmacy bags or food bags, while others do not. It’s a series of regulatory landmines for businesses, with their only option being to comply.

After a business has checked with their municipalities for the most up-to-date information, they will need to ensure that they are offering bags that are compliant with local and state regulations.

That’s where having an informed, transparent and capable paper and plastic product manufacturer and distributor can make a huge difference. Whether you need plastic bags offered in a thicker mil, recycled content paper bags, branded non-woven bags or anything in between, Broadway has the knowledge and capabilities to produce custom, innovative and compliant solutions for your business.

Learn more about sustainability and bag bans across the United States.

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[1] D.W. Laist. Impacts of marine debris: Entanglement of marine life in marine debris including a comprehensive list of species with entanglement and ingestion records,” in Coe, J.M. Rogers, D.B. (eds), Marine Debris: Sources, Impacts, and Solutions: Springer-Verlag, New York, (1997) 99-139.
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