Morocco's Plastic Bag “Ban-Wagon”
By Noah Chani / Arab America Contributing Writer
The 21st century is known for many great advancements in technology. The world is beginning to bare changes resulting from our prolonged use of resources and emissions of pollutants of all shapes and sizes. With the developing widespread realization that we must treat our planet better if we want the world to be as great if not greater for our children, the convenience of plastic bags is slowly being bypassed by the preservation of our environment.
In the Arab world, Morocco has been one of the lead countries in moving to ban plastic bags within their own borders. Previously being the second-biggest consumer of plastic bags behind the United States, Morocco’s ban shows a valiant effort to improve its environmental image. The actions of Morocco and other leading countries on environmental conservation are inspiring a number of other nations, and environmentally-friendly legislation is becoming more and more popular as we approach 2020.
Although plastic bags seem like a cheap and efficient way to carry our groceries, clothes, and other commodities, according to the EPI, nearly1 trillion plastic bags contain pollutants which are harmful to the planet if not recycled correctly. Around the world, the developing world, in particular, it isn’t very difficult to find plastic bags on the sides of roads, alleyways or in bodies of water. The world’s fight against plastic bags is motivated by the slew of risks that come with the production and consumption of plastic bags. These risks include:
- Having a damaged international reputation if efforts are not made to combat plastic bag production and usage
- Plastic Bags take hundreds of years to degrade if not disposed of properly
- Plastic bags are made from petroleum which is a nonrenewable resource which could be better used for more significant things
- Land animals, birds, and fish often mistake the plastic bags for food which can cause them to choke, block their intestines, and poison them
- Because of their light, flexible profile, plastic bags often blow with the wind which is partially to blame for them being found in farmlands and waterways
The entire world has come a long way environmentally in the 21st century, but some politicians still don’t take environmental issues as seriously as they should. Africa has been a lead continent in getting rid of plastic bags. As early as 2009, Morocco took the lead on the ban but originally struggled with the enforcement and restriction of informal bag production. But in July of 2016, they revamped their efforts to effectively ban and pass legislation, setting a firm date for businesses to rid themselves of plastic bags by. Their government has also shown an interest in building their environmental reputations by providing millions of dirhams to encourage Morocco’s existing plastic bag production industry to become eco-friendly. It will take time to break the consumer habit of using plastic bags and encourage the switch to paper and canvas shopping tote bags. The black market for plastic bags in African countries with bans is prevalent but will only take a few years to dissipate given the inspired shift of consumer habits.
The plastic “ban-wagon” movement has come a long way. Just sixteen years ago, South Africa had made their ‘national flower’ the plastic bag. It is said that they found comedy in the overwhelming litter in their country, but have since cleaned up their act and jumped on board with the rest. Morocco and South Africa are joined by 9 other African nations in implementing the ban, inspiring countries from continents around the world to narrow their environmental footprint. Denmark has lead Europe in such efforts, who placed a tax on their bags starting in 1994. The United States also made considerable progress with this. Although there is no countrywide legislation, there are individual states fighting the use of plastic bags through their own initiatives. These states include Hawaii, D.C., Seattle, Maine, New York, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico.
It is safe to say that we are moving in the right direction as a planet in our efforts to battle plastic bags. The actions of Morocco serve as a model for other nations to follow suit, thus, promoting the environmental consciousness of the Middle East.