International Pressure Against Plastic Bags Grows

Somewhere between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. They’re made of petroleum products, and they end up in landfills, adorning the landscape, or choking marine creatures — about 100,000 a year, according to the environmental group Planet Ark. Several countries have enacted measures to decrease their use. Ireland’s successful “PlasTax,” enacted in 2002, places a levy of around 20 cents on each bag; use of the bags has dropped 90 percent since the tax went into effect, and the government has raised millions for recycling. Similar measures, as well as voluntary reduction programs for retailers, are being considered or enacted in the U.K., Australia, Taiwan, Italy, South Africa (where the ubiquitous bags are derisively called the “national flower”), and elsewhere. So far, the U.S. is the notable laggard, but a few bag-tax proposals have been floated in California, the state where such things always seem to begin.