Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera, announced the ban of plastic bags, at a public ceremony in the centre of Santiago. As per the gazette by the government, large businesses have six months to phase out the use of plastic bags, while smaller ones will be given two years to adapt to the new rules. Any form of plastic bag other than those constituting primary packaging “necessary for hygiene or to prevent food wastage” are prohibited. There is a fine of US$370 for anyone that flouts the new law, passed on June 1. Chile has been taking the lead in Latin America when it comes to the campaign against the use of plastic bags. For instance, the previous administration did ban the use of plastic bags in coastal areas in 2017.

Chile’s government has declared war on plastic bag use, for good reason. Reports are that more than three billion plastic bags are used every year. The majority of these plastic bags end up in landfill sites or the sea where they are likely swallowed by birds or fish.

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Latin American countries are most vulnerable to this disaster as they enjoy one of highest levels of biodiversity in the world, said one report. This has led to these countries taking a tough stance against the use of plastic bags with the aim to improve the quality of life of the citizens and clean the oceans of the toxic material that ends up in the seas.