Jamaica to Ban Plastic Bags, Straws and Foam Containers Too

CC BY 2.0. Abir Anwar

The island nation is the latest in a long line of places making a move against single-use plastic.

From Scotland banning plastic-handled cotton buds to India reportedly banning all single-use plastics by 2023, we've seen many encouraging steps in the war against plastic marine litter of late. The latest positive sign is a move by Jamaica—reported in the Independent – to ban plastic bags, drinking straws and foam containers by January next year. Besides the simple fact that all single-use plastic bans, whether they involve an entire country or a specific hotel chain, inherently reduces the number of plastics that are in danger of "leaking" into the open environment, there are several reasons to be particularly excited about this happening in Jamaica.

Firstly, and most obviously, Jamaica is an island nation. And it's full of tourists. That means drinking straws and such are going to be disproportionately concentrated in the bars, clubs and on the beaches along the coastline, making them extra vulnerable to escape. Secondly, the tourism-dependent Jamaican economy has suffered from low economic growth for years. As has been noted in efforts to shift overseas development funding to waste collection efforts, while all plastics bans help, focusing attention on waste reduction and effective waste collection in economically disadvantaged countries would have a disproportionate effect on marine litter.

So, in terms of the environmental impact, a plastic bag not used in Jamaica is probably worth several plastic bags not used in Chicago. So kudos to Jamaica for taking this very important move. Also reporting on this story, Kate Chappell of the Washington Post notes another important motivator for change:

According to studies, tourism hotspots can lose as much as $8 million a year in revenue for every 15 items of litter that a visitor sees.