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Plastic pollution is impacting our waters and marine life, as well as our food chain and the public health. The good news is that global initiatives to reduce or eliminate the consumption of single-use plastic have been gaining momentum. This A-Z list covers efforts by regions, countries, cities and businesses to restrict the consumption and sale of single-use plastics, with a focus on plastic straws and plastic bags. We will regularly update it to include additional single-use plastic restrictions or bans of plastic bags and straws, as well as plastic cups, bottles, utensils, and more.
Canada, Vancouver: “Vancouver became the first major Canadian city to ban plastic straws, in a move towards banning all solid waste by 2040. According to a statement, the motion passed by city council also bans the distribution of foam cups and takeout containers, and will come into effect on June 1, 2019.”
Costa Rica: “Costa Rica is taking dramatic action against plastic waste with plan to ban all single-use plastics by 2021. This includes straws, bottles, cutlery, cups and bags.”
Great Britain: “The Government has announced its intention to ban the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds at the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit.” (announced April 18, 2018)
“Buckingham Palace has announced that plastic straws and bottles will be banned from the Royal estates.” (announced February 2018)
Greece, Sikinos: “The island of Sikinos will be the first to … ban the use of plastic straws this summer, in a bid to protect the marine environment in the Cyclades archipelago.” (announced May 2018)
Guatemala, San Pedro La Laguna: “San Pedro La Laguna law 111-2016 became effective in January. It prohibits plastic bags and straws, Styrofoam containers and all packaging materials made of polystyrene.”
India, New Delhi: “This massive city in India, home to over 20 million people, took a major step toward helping the planet when it banned all forms of single-use plastic in 2017.”
Scotland, Glasgow: Glasgow City Council will stop the use of plastic straws in all city operated properties, including museum cafes, offices, schools, sport centers and city chambers. The policy came into effect at the end of February 2018.
Seychelles: “Seychelles has banned the importation of single-use plastic straws, said a top official of the department of environment…Retailers have been given to January 2019 to use their existing stock.” (announced June 8, 2018)
Switzerland, Neuchatel: “Neuchâtel looks set to become the first city in Switzerland to outlaw the use of plastic straws in cafes from 2019, following a global trend to reduce plastic waste…The ban could come into force on January 1 next year.”
Taiwan: “As of 2018, food and beverage stores such as fast food chains must stop providing plastic straws for in-store use. From 2020, free plastic straws will be banned from all food and beverage outlets. From 2025, the public will have to pay for takeaway plastic straws, and a blanket ban is to be imposed in 2030.”
European Union: “Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.” (implemented January 16, 2018)
“The European Commission proposed on May 2018 new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.”
United States of America:
California, San Francisco: As of May of 2016 “The Board of Supervisors introduced new legislation that would ban the distribution of plastic straws and some other non-biodegradable odds and ends, in another City Hall drive to clean up San Francisco’s chronic trash problem.” Many cities in California have pending plastic straw legislation. Cities such as Alameda, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley.
Hawaii: “Hawaii Restaurant Association and the Hawaii Food Industry Association use to oppose Senate Bill 2285, which would ban the use of plastic straws throughout the state and slap offenders with fines as well as community service, namely trash details in littered public spaces… Yet several such establishments on Hawaii Island are nonetheless transitioning away from traditional plastic straws, despite expenses, to compostable paper straws.”
New Jersey: “Jersey City and Hoboken — as well as Shore towns like Long Beach, Belmar, and Point Pleasant Beach — have all banned single-use plastic bags. Teaneck, Longport, and Ventnor each have put a 5- or 10-cent fee on plastic bags.”
New Mexico: “A new push to usher plastic straws out in the capital city is gaining steam as Santa Fe City Council is now weighing a potential resolution in support of the idea.”
New York: In May 2018, Councilman Rafael Espinal has put forth a bill that would ban the use of plastic straws restaurants throughout New York City.“More than 60 restaurants here have already gone straw-free. The ban, if passed, would be enforced by the city departments of consumer affairs, sanitation and health. Violators could face fines starting at $100.”
South Carolina: “South Carolina’s fourth-largest city has decided to prohibit most single-use plastic bags, foam food containers and more, setting up a potential showdown with state lawmakers…The town’s ban would take effect in a year, and its reach extends beyond grocery store bags and take-out clamshells. The sale of polystyrene or plastic foam coolers and packing peanuts would also be prohibited. Plastic straws would be a no-no.”
Washington: “Seattle is set to enact a ban on plastic straws and utensils.” This was originally put in place September of 2017, but was enacted this past month.
Pre-emption actions taken in 10 states: Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri and Wisconsin.
Alaska Airlines: In 2018, Alaska Airlines will be removing all non-recyclable plastic stir straws and citrus picks and replacing them “with sustainable, marine-friendly alternatives on all domestic and international flights, as well as in Alaska’s lounges across the country.” Marine-friendly alternatives will be provided to guests who need them.
Bon Appétit Management Company: On May 31, 2018, Bon Appétit Management Company announced that it would “ban plastic straws and stirrers companywide in [its] 1,000 cafés and restaurants in 33 states. The phase-out has begun and will be completed by September 2019. Bon Appétit is the first food service company — or major restaurant company — to make this commitment in the country.”
Costa Cafe: In January 2018, UK-based Costa Coffee announced that it “will remove plastic drinking straws from its stores [in 2018] and replace them with a more environmentally friendly alternative.” The announcement goes beyond the steps the company previously took to only offer straws upon request.
Hilton: “Hilton will remove plastic straws from its 650 managed properties by the end of 2018… Hilton also reveals its new goal to double its social impact investments and cut its global environmental impact in half by 2030, with the help of science-based targets.
In Europe, Middle East & Africa alone, the commitment will remove more than five million plastic straws and 20 million plastic water bottles annually.”
Hyatt Hotels: “Hyatt Hotels Corporation… announced [on July 9, 2018, that] Hyatt hotels around the world plan to eliminate single-use plastic straws and drink picks. After Sept. 1, 2018, straws and picks will be available on request only, and eco-friendly alternatives will be provided where available.”
Ikea: “Ikea is to phase out all single-use plastic products from its stores and restaurants by 2020 amid growing concern about the effects of plastic on the environment.”
Ikea said plastic straws, plates, cups, freezer bags, bin bags, and plastic-coated paper plates and cups would all be phased out and where possible replaced by alternatives.”
London City Airport: As of February 2018, “plastic straws are no longer available in any of London City Airport’s food and drink outlets and have been replaced with biodegradable paper straws, which will be provided upon request.”
“Until this new measure, approximately 100,000 plastic straws were distributed by London City Airport outlets each year, among a proportion of its 4.5 million annual passengers. The airport is the first in the UK to implement the ban, helping to reduce the amount of plastic waste.”
Marriott International: Beginning in 2018, more than 60 Marriott International hotels in the UK will begin removing plastic straws and start offering biodegradable or paper alternatives to guests who request a straw. Hence, in Africa, Protea Hotels by Marriott, “has taken the initiative to introduce biodegradable straws in its hotels across the Sub-Saharan Africa region. This eco-conscious shift will become a brand standard across Marriott International brands such as Protea Hotels by Marriott, Protea Hotels Fire & Ice! by Marriott, African Pride Hotels Autograph Collection and the Westin Cape Town. The initiative follows the introduction of Vivreau Water in Protea Hotels, an initiative undertaken to limit the use of plastic water bottles.”
McDonald’s UK: In June 2018, “McDonald’s announced a phased rollout of paper straws in all 1,361 McDonald’s restaurants in the UK and Ireland with completion set for 2019 as well as plans to test alternatives to plastic straws in multiple markets throughout the globe later this year.” Those other markets include Belgium, and select restaurants in the U.S., France, Sweden, Norway, and Australia.
National Parks Service: National Park Service (NPS) concessioners in the food and beverage industry can implement an “offer first” policy, requiring the customer to “opt-in” to using a straw rather than making straw usage the default.
Ted’s Montana Grill was one of the first to sign on to the Be Straw Free campaign. Following Ted’s example, the Colorado Restaurant Association implemented an “offer first” policy, and the National Restaurant Association now recognizes the “offer first” policy as an industry best practice. Xanterra Parks and Resorts launched its own “Choose to be Straw Free” program this past April, setting in motion an “offer first” trend both on national parks and other locations including: Kingsmill Resort, Zion National Park; Grand Canyon Railway, Grand Canyon South Rim; The Grand Hotel, Grand Canyon National Park; Painted Desert Oasis, Petrified Forest National Park; Windstar Cruises, Yellowstone National Park; Crater Lake National Park; Rocky Mountain National Park; Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Furnace Creek Resort, and, Death Valley National Park; Five Ohio State Park lodges.
Concessioners in the national park system can follow the lead of many straw-free NPS concessioners and the National Restaurant Association in making straw use a customer choice rather than a business default. Each concession operation can make a difference, and as more national parks adopt such a policy, behavior in all industries may begin to shift.
Pizza Express: In response to a letter from a five-year-old concerned about the effect of straws on the environment, the UK-based company Pizza Express announced that it is “now phasing out single-use plastic straws from all 470+ restaurants [in the UK]… [and will be] replacing them with biodegradable and recyclable paper versions.” The new company policy will come into effect in summer, 2018.
Pret a Manger: In 2018, Pret a Manger announced that they would begin offering paper straws to customers in the UK, with plastic straws only available upon request.
Restaurants: The Last Plastic Straw, an initiative under the Plastic Pollution Coalition, keeps a restaurant directory of eateries from California to Rhode Island that are taking efforts to skip the straw.
Royal Caribbean Cruises: “All 50 ships across the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. fleet will ring in 2019 free of plastic straws. Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, TUI Cruises, and Pullmantur Cruceros are eliminating plastic straws en route to comprehensive plastics elimination programs across their brands. For over a year now, RCL ships have begun implementing a “straws upon request” policy. That program will be taken a step further by the start of 2019, when guests requesting a straw will receive a paper straw instead of a plastic one. Guests also will begin seeing Forrest Stewardship Council-certified wood coffee stirrers and bamboo garnish picks as part of RCL’s plastic reduction strategy.”
SeaWorld Entertainment: “As part of its mission to protect animals and habitats worldwide, and just in time for World Oceans Day, SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc…. announced [on June 8, 2018] that all 12 of its theme parks have removed all single-use plastic drinking straws and single-use plastic shopping bags.”
Starbucks: On July 9, 2018, “Starbucks Coffee Company announced it would eliminate single-use plastic straws from its more than 28,000 company-operated and licensed stores by making a strawless lid or alternative-material straw options available, around the world. Starbucks, the largest food, and beverage retailer to make such a global commitment, anticipates the move will eliminate more than one billion plastic straws per year from Starbucks stores.”
Union Square Hospitality Group: The Union Square Cafe and other Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants will end its use of plastic straws and start the switch immediately to biodegradable alternatives. The move was announced in May 2018.
Wagamama: In January 2018 Wagamama announced it would end its use of plastic straws. The restaurant chain stopped providing plastic straws in its 128 UK restaurants on Earth Day 2018. “Those who ask for straws will, from [Earth Day on], be given a biodegradable paper alternative. The chain said the move would prevent seven million single-use plastic straws polluting the environment each year.”
Policy: The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) banned plastic bag usage in 2011. Banned plastic bags include all single-use polyethylene polymer bags that are less than 35 microns thick. The Australian government encouraged citizens to bring reusable bags when shopping to reduce their environmental impact.
Impact: The ban has been widely successful, eliminating ⅓ of plastic waste sent to landfills prior to the ban. It has also become popular among Australian citizens. Rather than feeling inconvenienced by the ban, they support it. A study conducted by ACT shows that roughly 70% of citizens do not support the ban being rescinded.
Policy: Boston is on its way to implementing a dual approach of taxation and bans on single-use bags. Beginning in December 2018, there will be a ban on plastic bags, and a 5 cent tax on sustainable single-use bags.
Impact: Boston’s plastic bag ban will add to the more than 70 cities and towns in Massachusetts that regulate plastic bags. Boston expects this policy to be key in reducing the more than 350 million plastic bags that are used in the city each year.
Policy: Montreal implemented a ban on plastic bags with thickness less than 50 microns in January of 2018. Several other municipalities in Canada have followed suit. Victoria intends to ban plastic bags in July of 2018, and Vancouver has also expressed interest in reducing their plastic consumption with a tax or ban. Edmonton has asked businesses to charge for plastic bags, and is reevaluating a ban proposed in 2012.
Impact: The bans on plastic in Canada are relatively new, or still in the process of implementation. Canadian governments have allowed for a 6-month grace period for businesses to come into compliance with the new legislation before strictly enforcing the ban. The plans hope to reduce the billions of plastic bags used in Canada every year.
Policy: Chile’s current president is expanding the previously proposed plastic bag ban to apply to the entire country, not just coastal cities. This policy will make Chile the first country in South America to ban plastic bags. As part of the ban’s enforcement, Chile will issue fines of up to $300 USD on businesses that continue to distribute plastic bags. The government is also planning to coordinate beach cleanups, specifically during peak vacation times when the most plastic waste is accumulated on the beach.
Impact: The policy is expected to go in effect in mid-2019 for large retailers. Smaller businesses will have an extra year to adapt to the policy. Until the ban is fully in place, businesses have a limit of how many bags they are allowed to give customers at the checkout. With rising awareness on the impacts of plastic pollution on marine life, this policy aims to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean and waterways.
Policy: The Chinese government responded to widespread plastic pollution by banning distribution of single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and shops around the country. Companies face a strict fine of 10,000 yuan, or roughly 1,593 USD, for illegal plastic bag distribution.
Impact: The NRDC estimates that China has seen a 66% reduction in plastic bag usage since the rollout of the ban. In response to inconsistent enforcement, 600,000 regulators have been sent to grocery stores around the country to make sure that they comply.
Policy: The Costa Rica government declared on World Environment Day in 2017 that they aim to be plastic free by 2021. Exactly a year later the President has followed up on that commitment by issuing a directive that bans the use of plastics in certain public institutions, including schools and prisons. While a specific policy has not been put in place yet, the government says that they will have an online platform where both individuals and businesses can submit their commitments and actions. The alternatives to single-use plastic will be those that are fully recyclable and/or compostable in oceans and waterways.
Impact: The country has an admirable track record for protecting their environment. Since 1984, Costa Rica has increased their forest cover from 26% to 52%, and in 2015 and 2016 the country ran on renewable energy for more than 250 days. Furthermore, their goal to cut out plastic by 2021 coincides with their previous goal of being carbon neutral by the same time. These previous accomplishments, as well as the support from the public and the UN Development Program, proves that the Costa Rican government has the necessary tools to become plastic free.
Policy: In January 2018, the European Commission adopted the first-ever European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. The plan seeks to eliminate plastic pollution and change the way plastics are produced and consumed in the EU with a focus on plastic bags, other single-use plastics, and fishing materials. The plan also seeks to improve the economic benefit of recycling, to create jobs through engaging businesses and producers, and to invest in innovation.
Impact: The European Commission will begin to introduce regulations and measures to the European Parliament later in 2018 and 2019, including a proposals on the regulation of single-use plastics, packaging waste, and port waste management. The Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy will play an important role in the EU achieving its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and commitments to the Paris Agreement. By 2030 all plastic packaging produced and sold in Europe should be reusable or recyclable. Other 2030 targets include 65% recycling of municipal waste, 75% recycling of packaging waste, and a binding agreement to reduce landfill waste to a maximum of 10% of municipal waste.
Policy: On July 1st 2016 France banned free distribution of thin single-use plastic bags typically distributed at grocery stores, and thin green bags used for produce on January 1st 2017. The ban aims to reduce an estimated 5 billion plastic grocery bags, and 12 billion produce bags.The French Minister of Sustainable Development noted the importance of reducing plastic pollution to reduce its disastrous effects on marine environments.
Impact: Like most bans on plastics, it has received backlash from the plastic industry. Bio-sourced and biodegradable bags made from a cornstarch and plastic blend have been proposed as a solution to potential negative economic impacts of the ban. In 2016, the French Environment Minister estimated over 3,000 jobs would result from production of a greener alternative to traditional, single-use grocery bags. The newest addition to the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act proposes a ban on plastic plates and utensils, to be further discussed in 2020.
Policy: India, the host of World Environment Day in 2018, used the platform to announce their commitment to ending the consumption of single-use plastics by 2022. As a sign of their commitment, the country also joined the UN Clean Seas campaign. Already throughout the sub-continent there have been several efforts to stop plastic pollution, like in Karnataka and most recently in the city of Mumbai.
Impact: This is expected to assist with India’s plastic pollution problem, as only 40% of the country’s plastic is recycled. With 10 regional policies already in place, a country-wide ban could further reinforce the existing rules and ensure that all regions are doing their part to end plastic pollution.
Policy: Ireland was the first country to place a significant tax on plastic bags — now 22 euro cents — at checkout in 2002. For the few bags that are used, the government has ensured that the revenue from the tax goes into different programs aimed at environmental protection.
Impact: The country saw a significant impact almost instantly with plastic bag consumption dropping by 94%, making the practice of using plastic bags unacceptable by the end of the year. Having inspired other countries to address this issue, Ireland proves to be one of the leading countries tackling plastic bag consumption.
Policy: Karnataka has banned plastic bags and more. Its law targets several different single-use plastic items, including plastic dinnerware. This policy puts the pressure on consumers and distributors, and the plastic manufacturers. All manufacturers in the state are banned from producing any single-use plastics.
Impact: This ambitious policy was put in place to significantly reduce the overwhelming plastic pollution found in India’s streets and waterways. The policy was first implemented in 2016, and studies on its impact have yet to be produced.
Policy: In 2017, Kenya implemented a country-wide ban of plastic bags that also falls on the distributors and producers of single-use bags. They even went as far as to implement significant repercussions for disobeying the law, which can include either a four-year jail sentence or a 40,000 fine for the sale or use of plastic bags.
Impact: While it is too soon to measure the impact, this policy was passed with the goal of aiding and protecting Kenya’s agricultural, tourism, and fishing sectors.
Policy: Although Mexico does not have a federal ban on plastic bags, many cities and states are taking action to reduce plastic pollution. In 2009, Mexico City introduced legislation to prohibit retailers from distributing single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags. Industrial hub Queretaro became the first municipality in Mexico to ban plastic bags as of April 2018. Cancun, a center for tourism, has proposed a plan to eliminate plastic bags, straws, and water bottles, initially through voluntary action.
Impact: Queretaro intends to strictly enforce the ban by confiscating illicit bags, and denying business license renewal for offenders. Mexico City’s plan was met with pushback from the plastic industry, but the city has persevered in its mission to reduce plastic pollution with a recycling initiative. Officials expect Cancun’s plan to be implemented over the next three years, with intentions to enact a full ban within this time frame.
Policy: After a partial ban in 2009, Morocco’s law fully banning plastic bags came into effect in July 2016. In the attempt to make plastic bag pollution nearly impossible, this law does not only cover the distribution of plastic bags, but also the import and production of them. To effectively enforce the ban, there are fines ranging from $20,000 to over $100,000 USD placed on manufacturers and distributors who break the law.
Impact: As the second largest consuming country of plastic bags, adhering to the ambitious law has taken a bit of an adjustment. The government is responding to the challenges the plastic bag ban poses by ensuring that plastic bag alternatives are easily accessible.
Policy: Rwanda implemented a strict plastic bag ban in 2008. Previously, plastic bags were primarily disposed of by incineration, negatively impacting Rwandan air quality. Bags that were not incinerated clogged streets and waterways.
Impact: The bag ban has been strictly enforced due to challenges posed by smugglers and tourists entering the country. Illegal use of plastic bags can result in fines or jail time. Strict enforcement has had positive impacts on the environment, reducing flooding, harm to wildlife, and erosion.
San Francisco, CA
Policy: San Francisco was the first city in the U.S. to completely ban plastic bags back in 2007. This policy pushes San Francisco residents even further to use reusable bags by placing an additional 10-cent fee on single-use compostable or recycled paper bags that customers need at the checkout.
Impact: Since 2010, this policy has led to a 72% reduction in plastic bag pollution.
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Santa Monica’s single-use carryout bag ordinance prohibits all retail establishments from providing single-use plastic carryout bags to customers at the point of sale.
Policy: Seattle made strides towards reducing plastic pollution in 2012 by banning retail stores from handing out single-use bags. Grocery stores were also prohibited from providing plastic bags at the checkout but were allowed to have single-use bags, as long as the bags were made with a minimum of 40% recycled material and taxed at five cents per bag. As of July 1, 2018, the city has officially banned all food service business from offering plastic straws and utensils. While there is a fine issued to those not in compliance, the city states that they are more focused on helping business become plastic free rather than administering consequences.
Impact: The legislation was successfully passed despite the American Chemical Society spending more than $1.4 million lobbying against the plan. Since its implementation, there has been a 78% reduction in plastic bag use in Seattle.
Policy: As of October, 2015, stores in the UK began charging five pence per single-use plastic carrier bag. Consumers can avoid this charge by bringing a reusable bag to carry their goods. The plastic bag charge applies to any business that has more than 250 employees.
Impact: Since the bag tax’s introduction in 2015, officials estimate that plastic bag consumption has been reduced by more than 80%. The UK government also predicts significant economic benefits from the ban, including £60 million reduction in litter clean-up costs and £13 million in carbon savings.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
#CleanSeas Campaign: UNEP launched the CleanSeas campaign in 2017 to engage stakeholders from all sectors to fight pollution of plastics in the ocean. Plastic pollution has now reached the deepest parts of the oceans and pieces of plastic are expected to outnumber fish by 2050. The goal is to address the root causes of plastic pollution, primarily the production and consumption of single-use plastics. To date, more than 40 countries have signed on to the campaign.
#BeatPlasticPollution Campaign: The #BeatPlasticPollution campaign is the focus of the 2018 World Environment Day organized by the UN. Beat Plastic Pollution, which overlaps with the CleanSeas campaign, likewise targets single-use plastics and pushes consumers to follow the motto: “If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.”
Vancouver adopted a policy in 2018 to prohibit polystyrene foam cups and take-out containers, and single-use plastic straws, as part of its Zero Waste 2040 strategy.
Policy: The U.S. capital was one of the first cities to lead the way on ending plastic pollution by implementing a tax on plastic bags. The revenue collected from this 5-cent tax goes to the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund and distributes reusable bags to low-income and elderly communities in DC.
Impact: Since the policy was implemented in 2009, there’s been an 85% reduction in plastic bag consumption. Before the ban, DC locals consumed 22.5 million bags per month. That number has now dropped to 3.3 million bags per month.
MORE ON WHAT YOU CAN DO TO END PLASTIC POLLUTION
We need governments, businesses, and individuals to help end plastic pollution. Earth Day Network is mobilizing key actors and institutions and citizens across the globe to bring about a new level of consciousness about plastics pollution and a paradigm shift.
Write to your local elected officials, urging them to follow the above examples.
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