Buenos Aires is taking steps to get plastic shopping bags out of the city with a regulation that will slowly take the product away from store checkouts.
Following in the province of Buenos Aires’ footsteps, the regulation will implement a series of steps to gradually replace plastic bags. The first tier came into effect on 19th June, when people should have stopped receiving plastic bags from kiosks, pharmacies and deliveries.
From the beginning of August, supermarkets and convenience stores will have to provide biodegradable equivalents to plastic bags or incentives for people who bring their own bags.
The move is a step toward reducing waste in the city of Buenos Aires, which sends 6,000 tonnes of garbage to landfill each day. The issue of rubbish disposal has been a hot topic in the last few months, as the province of Buenos Aires, where the landfills are located, debates a bill that, if passed, will gradually decrease the amount of waste entering the province. From January 2014, no waste would be allowed to enter the province from another district.
Although the law in question – 3147 – was passed in 2009, the city just resolved to regulate it. In its 9th May official bulletin, the city announced the approval of the schedule that would remove plastic bags from checkouts.
Resolution 155/APRA/12 reads that the law “aims to promote the production of biodegradable bags” and “the gradual reduction and subsequent ban on non-biodegradable bag use by businesses.”
The official bulletin also notes “that the plan should also consider the conversion of the biodegradable bag manufacturing sector, developing a schedule for the gradual replacement of non-biodegradable bags with biodegradable bags as well as awareness campaigns for the population.”
The only industries exempt from the law are those that require plastic bags for sanitary reasons, like meat and vegetable sellers and the hospital sector.
Exemptions will also be made for supermarkets and convenience stores that supply customers with new bags that are 55cm wide and 60cm high, 50% of which are green and 50% of which are black. The move is an attempt to get people to recognise the need to separate garbage into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste.
Stores who wish to use paper bags must follow other regulations as well, according to the city’s website.
“They must be made with certified paper to ensure environmental sustainability in its production cycle,” it says, noting the paper must follow international certification systems, be made from alternatives like cane sugar or be made with least 80% recycled paper.
The plastic bag ban means the Argentine capital is joining a slew of cities around the world that are banning plastic bags, including Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Mumbai among many others.
Ecoexist is a company that makes eco-friendly bags in Argentina. “The ecological bags have many advantages,” Ecoexist member Sebastián Javelier says in a blog post, publicised on the company’s site, which notes the city’s new stance. “The main one is that the consumer is fully aware that an environmental problem exists, but doesn’t know quite what to do as an individual. These bags intuitively help to reduce garbage, one of the three most important problems of urban life, along with water care and disposal of batteries and electronic waste.”
The province of Buenos Aires moved to limit the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags in 2008, and gave stores a two-year period to adjust before enforcing the law.
To find out what locals think about the initiative, click here.