Traveling has been instrumental in opening my eyes to the way others live (that and cinema *swoon) and admittedly what I notice first on arrival is how a country deals with waste. Are the streets clean or dirty? Are there recycling bins? Do people litter? Other than the weather it has persuasive ability to make me subconsciously love a place or just like a place. More recently, I’m obsessed with countries who’ve banned the bag.

I recently discovered the Pacific Ocean now hosts a vortex of tiny plastic particles that swirl, trapped by currents throughout the ecosystem, aptly named The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. These pieces of plastic tend to be microscopic, because plastic doesn’t biodegrade – it simply breaks down into smaller and smaller particles over time. I have to say, it scared me a little (a LOT). This lead me to dig deeper into what we’re doing about it!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Thankfully there are nations globally taking action, particularly in regions like Asia and Africa. Sadly, South Africa had actually declared plastic bags as their ‘National Flower’ due to their overwhelming presence in trees and bushes. So it’s no shock they were one of the first nations to ‘ban the bag‘. The UN announced more than 60 countries had introduced bans and levies on single-use plastic items like plastic bags.

single use plastic
How would the tourism industry effect us if plastic bags were our national flower?

Want to support countries who are doing the right thing? Look no further! 16 countries who’ve banned the bag:

These hand selected 16 countries who’ve banned the bag and here’s why they should be on your 2019 bucket list:

1. Ethiopia

Banned the bag in 2011. Ethiopia was among the first countries in Africa to ban the bag,  they’ve imposed a (partial) ban on certain types of plastic bags. Environmental activists say that tens of millions of plastic bags are imported into the country annually. It adversely impact’s the food chain as livestock tend to consume them. Africa is focused on a green economy and quite frankly, they’re putting us all to shame!

2. Madagascar

Banned the bag in 2015. (Partial Ban) A local Malagasy company has been importing cassava starch to produce alternative biodegradable bags. The best part? These bags don’t contain polyethylene. According to the manufacturers, the bags need only three to six months to decompose, compared with a hundred years for the plastic version.

3. Morocco

Banned the bag in 2016. (Total Ban). Morocco is ranked one of the world’s greenest countries, with their biggest achievements being: cracking down on carbon emissions and increasing the production of solar power. Morocco is considered a green leader among the developing nations. PLUS! Meknes, Morocco has just been listed as the Lonely Planet’s best cities to visit in 2019 (10/10).

4. Tanzania

Banned the bag in 2006. (Partial Ban). What’s great is their strict ban on plastic water bottles: Trekkers on Mt Kilimanjaro are forbidden to bring plastic bottles on the mountain. Sources say selling plastic bags in Tanzania carries a maximum six-month jail sentence and a fine of 1.5 million shilling (AUD $892).

Taj Mahal, India
Taj Mahal, India

5. India

The state Government of Maharashtra banned plastic bags in June 2018. (Partial Ban). The other states are a bit behind. PLUS! Gujurat, India has just been listed as the Lonely Planet’s best regions to visit in 2019 (7/10)

“The average supermarket plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to break down. Your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren will share a planet with the plastic bag you just used to bring home tonight’s dinner.”

Source: Global Citizen, you can read the full article here.

6. Australia

Banned the bag in 2011. (Partial Ban). In July 2018 Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia joined the Northern Territory (2011), South Australia (2009), ACT (2011) & Tasmania (2013) in banning single use plastic bags from all retailers. While there’s no compulsory ban in NSW (not good enough!!), the big supermarkets Coles and Woolworths have been phasing out plastic bag use nationwide since June 2018. PLUS! The Red Centre has just been listed as the Lonely Planet’s best regions to visit in 2019 (4/10).

Uluru, Australia
Uluru, Australia

7. New Zealand

New Zealand banned the bag in 2018. (Partial Ban). Ahh Jacinda Ardern, is there anything she can’t do?! PM Ardern said fines of up to $NZ100,000 ($AUS 89,621) were being proposed for supermarkets failing to adhere to the rules. What’s even cooler: Air New Zealand have just announced a further 14 single-use plastic products will be substituted from their supply chain over the next 12 months, the airline has removed single-use plastic straws, stir sticks, eye mask wrappers and plastic toothbrushes from lounges and on board.

8. Papua New Guinea

Banned the bag in 2016. (Partial Ban). Given most of PNG’s communities (both coastal and inland areas) are dependent on fish on a daily basis, it was imperative that the government take action. PS: I highly recommend you trek the Kokoda Trail!

9. Vanuatu

Banned the bag January 2018, including the use of polystyrene takeaway containers. Vanuatu are one of the first countries in the Pacific region to take action. The Minister in Charge of Foreign Affairs, Ralph Regenvanu, said the Government would focus on getting rid of other plastic products, like “…plastic knives, forks, straws, those kinds of things.” Go Vanuatu!!

“Each year, around 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans. It’s like dumping a rubbish truck full of plastic in the water every single minute. “

Source: Global Citizen, read the full article here

10. Ireland

Banned the bag in 2002. (Partial Ban). Ireland is perhaps the world’s biggest leader in encouraging the disuse of plastic bags. This resulted in a 90% drop in bag usage and a great reduction in litter. Money collected went straight into an Environment Fund, according to The Journal, they’ve since collected over 200 million euros (2013) for The Department of the Environment. Cork has even banned disposable coffee cups  – encouraging office workers to use keep-cups instead of the convenient plastic laden paper cups. Bless the Irish!

Mt Hutt, New Zealand
Mt Hutt, New Zealand

11. Italy

Banned the bag in 2011. (Total Ban). Italy was the first European country to have banned the bag nationwide, KUDOS! Those Italians know what’s good, I mean they certainly know how to live – and eat *drool. PLUS! Piedmont, Italy has just been listed as the Lonely Planet’s best region to visit in 2019 (1/10)

12. Guatemala

The district of San Pedro La Laguna (home to the popular tourist destination Lake Atitlan) banned the bag in 2016. (Partial Ban). There is so much to offer in ‘Guatie’ for high end travelers and those on a budget.

Efogi I Village, Papua New Guinea
Village, Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea

13. Mexico

Mexico City banned the bag in 2010, the city of Querétaro banned in 2017 and Tijuana banned in 2018. (Partial Ban). According to Dolores Barrientos, UN Environment representative in Mexico “…more than 15 initiatives, laws and regulations at the state and municipal levels, seek to reduce the consumption of disposable plastics.” PLUS! Mexico city has just been listed as the Lonely Planet’s best cities to visit in 2019 (6/10)

14. United States of America

California banned the bag in 2016. (Partial Ban). Good riddance to 15 billion pieces of bad rubbish every year! The rest of the states are a little slower to catch on but they are slowly making progress. Including Washington DC & Hawaii. Yah!!

15. Brazil

Sao Paulo banned plastic bags in 2015. (Partial Ban). An alternative bag has been put in place and unlike the petrol based white bags, these bags are sourced from sugarcane ethanol. Both plastics release the same quantity of carbon when they degrade. The difference is that the sugar cane, while it’s in the ground, withdraws carbon gas from the atmosphere and returns oxygen.

16. Ecuador

Banned the bag in 2014. Ecuador restricts plastic bags around the Galápagos Islands. (Partial Ban). It is estimated that 1.5 million birds, fish, whales and turtles die every year (globally) due to plastic pollution. Given that the Galápagos Marine Reserve is a hugely diverse ecosystem, this is a huge promotion for environmental sustainability. PLUS! Ecuador has just been listed as the Lonely Planet’s best value countries to visit in 2019 (8/10)

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

All in all we need to educate the public beyond implementing laws, levies and taxes. 

What is a partial ban?

In the above cases, single-use bags were still available, however a levy was applied, creating revenue for governments to channel back into environmental programs. As well as encouraging consumers to bring their own reusable bags.

How to help in your country? 

Take action! Call on governments and business leaders to say NO! to single-use plastics.

Want more information on how to travel ethically?

Check out my posts on Ethical Travel & happy vaycay planning!

PS: Have I missed any countries who’ve banned the bag?

Let me know what you think....