By 1996, 80% of grocery store bags were plastic. These bags were stronger and held more than paper bags, making them convenient. They were easier to fold and store or use as waste bags.
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Consumers didn’t realize the environmental impact of such a small thing. According to the International Bar Association, plastic bags take years to degrade, release poisonous chemicals when burned, obstruct stormwater drains, and kill animals who get trapped in them.
Charles Moore discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997. The UN Environment Program says Bangladesh banned plastic bags five years later. However, other nations have been slow to follow.
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According to Statista, 77 nations had outlawed single-use plastic bags by July 2021.
Corporations also reduce plastic bag consumption. According to Insider, Walmart will restrict single-use plastic bags in more places starting January 18 to reach its objective of “zero waste” by 2025.
“100 billion plastic bags are being used yearly in the U.S. alone, and fewer than 10% of them are recycled,” Walmart’s director of sustainability Anna Vinogradova said in a 2020 press statement detailing the company’s move to more sustainable retail bags.
Since then, Vermont, Maine, New Jersey, and Canada stores have stopped offering plastic bags. By January 18, Walmart will ban plastic bags in Colorado and New York.
Walmart shoppers must carry their own bags or buy reusable ones. However, critics say the company’s new regulations have created a new problem. Walmart Canada delivers reusable bags, but it doesn’t collect and reuse them.
CBC reported that Toronto resident Larry Grant had collected over 300 reusable bags from the business in six months.
NJ had similar concerns. Customers told CBC that while the plastic bag ban is great, the business has “replaced one environmental problem with another” and hopes the retailer finds a solution soon.