Nature and Biodiversity

Mexico City is banning single-use plastics

Trucks with garbage are parked at the Nezahualcoyotl dump site in Mexico City February 6, 2009. Mexico City is facing a crisis over where to put its trash -- enough to fill four sports stadiums a year -- with its sprawling dump already crammed to bursting and under a closure order. One of the world's biggest landfills, the Nezahualcoyotl dump site is a fifth the size of Manhattan and sits inside the urban sprawl of the fast-growing Mexican capital. Picture taken February 6, 2009.     REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar (MEXICO) - GM1E52D07FA01

Mexico city is second only to New York when it comes to producing waste. Image: REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar

Douglas Broom
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Mexico City is going to war on plastic waste. A decade after its authorities started charging shoppers for carrier bags, it has passed a ban on a number of single-use plastic items.

Plastic bags will disappear from shops in the city by next year. And from 2021, single-use items including cutlery, straws, cups and balloons will be against the law.

The government says it is phasing in the new legislation to give businesses, including Mexico City’s many street food vendors, time to find alternatives to plastic wrappings.

With a population of almost 9 million people, Mexico City is second only to New York when it comes to producing waste.

Its decision to crack down on single-use plastics follows action by 27 other countries that have already implemented bans or restrictions.

Waste-powered subway trains

Mexico City generates an estimated 13,000 tonnes of waste every day and recycling has only recently become mandatory.

Mexico wants less plastic to end up in garbage dumps Image: Reuters/Henry Romero

“We need a cultural change, with education campaigns to change our consumption habits,” says Gabriela Evia of Mexico Without Plastic Alliance.

Environmental groups now want Mexico’s federal government to replicate the single-use plastic ban nationwide.

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Turning the tide of plastic waste

In its report The New Plastics Economy, the World Economic Forum says 95% of the economic value of plastic packaging produced globally is wasted because of low recycling and reuse rates.

The world produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastic packaging every year. One-third of this is never collected by the waste system, and a lot of that ends up in our oceans.

Image: World Economic Forum

By creating a circular economy for plastic, the Forum says recycling and reuse could reverse the current position, with most plastic waste recovered and used to make new products, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and removing pollution from the sea.

Last year, the Forum launched the The Global Plastic Action Partnership with support from the governments of Canada and the UK, together with Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dow Chemical. The partnership aims to develop projects which will help countries tackle plastic waste.

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