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This Lebanese District Is the Latest to Ban Plastic Bags in the Region

Photographed by Piotr Stoklasa for Vogue Arabia, April 2018.

The Lebanese municipality of Jbeil has announced that it is banning the use of plastic bags. The eco-friendly move is part of a larger initiative that aims to tackle the ongoing garbage crisis in the Levant country. The district follows in the sustainable footsteps of Oman, who banned the usage of plastic bags from all supermarkets in an effort to reduce plastic consumption back in June, as well as Morocco— one of the largest consumers of plastic bags— which prohibited the manufacture, import, export, marketing, and use of the bags in 2016. Meanwhile, certain supermarkets in the UAE, such as select Waitrose locations in Abu Dhabi, are encouraging the use of eco-conscious alternatives by charging a fee of 25 fils for single-use plastic bags. The Jbeil news comes days after Starbucks announced it will be phasing out the use of plastic straws in lieu of recyclable strawless lids in coming months.

But, is the prohibition of plastic bags proving effective? Well, across the pond, the United Kingdom issued a law in 2015 requiring all supermarkets to charge 5p for single-use plastic bags. The previous year, the equivalent to 140 single-use plastic bags per person were given to customers by supermarkets in England, according to government figures. However, after introducing the law, the number of bags used decreased by more than 80%. Meanwhile, in our region, Moroccan authorities were able to seize more than 420 tons of plastic bags in the year since they were banned, resulting in an increase of alternative solutions such as woven bags, paper bags, and shopping carts. In addition to minimizing the use of plastic, the “Zero Mika” initiative helped revive ancient bag-making traditions, creating a number of jobs in the North African country.

Ditching the single-use grocery bag is a big step in minimizing plastic waste (plastic takes over 500 years to biodegrade), which is seriously harming the environment. According to various scientific reports, more than 8 billion tons of plastic have been produced since its mass commercialization in the ’50s. It’s being made at such an alarming rate that recycling systems can’t keep up, with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimating that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Of all the plastic waste accumulated since the ’50s, only 9% has been recycled – 79% ended up on landfills or fragile ecosystems, such as the ocean.

Fortunately, general awareness on the matter has increased in recent years, with many celebrities and brands making an effort to be more eco-friendly. In the UAE, food delivery platforms such as Deliveroo now give users an option to forego plastic utensils during checkout, while HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum actually joined a team on a waste-recovery mission last year, putting on goggles and an oxygen tank to pick up litter from the seabed on International Volunteer Day. Meanwhile, Emirates offers passengers sustainable blankets made out of recycled plastic bottles. Elsewhere, high-profile figures are taking to social media to raise awareness on the issue, such as photography duo Inez and Vinoodh, who recently reposted a video highlighting the plastic waste crisis in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, on their shared Instagram account.

While fixing the problem goes beyond a single Instagram post or trip to the supermarket, every small step makes a difference, especially when it comes to saving our planet. Below, shop five reusable bags that won’t harm the environment.

Newspaper Tote Bag

MM6 Maison Margiela
Slouchy Tote Bag

Totes Mcgotes

Mesh Tote Bag

Have a Good Time
Blue Frame Tote

Now Read: Is Wearing Plastic as Transparent as it Seems?

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