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UN calls for global ban on plastic bags to save oceans

The UN’s top environmental official called for a global ban on plastic bags yesterday. “Single use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program.

Steiner’s call comes after the U.N. Environment Program released a comprehensive report on litter in the world’s ocean, which identified plastic as the most common form of ocean litter. When plastic enters the marine food -chain it can devastate marine life and even affect humans when they consume seafood that have eaten plastic debris.

The plastic problem is so bad that a floating island of plastic debris has been discovered in the northern Pacific which is double the size of the United States.

China and Bangladesh have both banned plastic bags, while Ireland has reduced plastic bag consumption by 90 percent by levying a fee on each bag. Such measures have only just reached the United States: San Francisco is the only city to ban plastic bags, although Los Angeles will have a ban in place next year. New York City rejected such a fee on bags last year, but Washington D.C. is considering a 5-cent-fee this week.

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(01/13/2008) In effort to stem plastic pollution, China has banned stores from using flimsy plastic bags and is mandating an additional charge if customers opt for a more durable plastic bag. Joining countries such as Ireland, Taiwan, and parts of South Africa, this new measure is aimed at encouraging the use of cloth bags and other reusable containers. Bangladesh has banned plastic shopping bags completely since 2002 when they were found to block drainage systems and cause flooding during monsoon rains. Australia is contemplating the move, as are cities such as London and Boston.

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