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International policies to reduce plastic marine pollution from single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads): A review

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Marine plastic pollution has been a growing concern for decades. Single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads) are a significant source of this pollution. Although research outlining environmental, social, and economic impacts of marine plastic pollution is growing, few studies have examined policy and legislative tools to reduce plastic pollution, particularly single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads). This paper reviews current international market-based strategies and policies to reduce plastic bags and microbeads. While policies to reduce microbeads began in 2014, interventions for plastic bags began much earlier in 1991. However, few studies have documented or measured the effectiveness of these reduction strategies. Recommendations to further reduce single-use plastic marine pollution include: (i) research to evaluate effectiveness of bans and levies to ensure policies are having positive impacts on marine environments; and (ii) education and outreach to reduce consumption of plastic bags and microbeads at source.
Timing and number of global plastic bag and microbead interventions. in Ireland resulted in an immediate reduction (~ 90%) in plastic bag use by an order of magnitude, from an estimated 328 bags to 21 bags per capita; and currently at an estimated 14 bags per capita in 2014. The tax was increased to €0.22 in 2007 and increased again to €0.44 in 2009 because of temporary increases in per capita bag use over the same period. Revenues generated from the bag tax were contributed to an Environment Fund (Earth Policy Institute, 2014). Similarly, in Wales, single-use plastic bag consumption declined by 71% between 2011 and 2014 (when a five pence levy was introduced in October 2011). Statistics released in 2012 by the Welsh Government suggested that carrier bag use in Wales had reduced 96% since the introduction of the levy (Welsh Government, 2014). England was the last country in the UK to adopt the five pence charge for plastic bags, although some retailers participated voluntarily prior to the government policy. Following the introduction of the five pence levy in England, plastic bag use at seven major supermarkets dropped by 85% (Smithers, 2016), which translated to approximately six billion fewer bags issued during the first year of implementation (United Kingdom Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, 2015). While limited information is available on plastic bag bans, no studies were found related to efficacy of bans of microbeads. Therefore , research is required to address this gap for a number of reasons . Monitoring can ensure that interventions are being adhered to. In South Africa, insufficient monitoring of plastic bag consumption resulted in an ineffective plastic bag prevention scheme; the levy was too small, and, overtime, reductions in plastic bag use ceased (Dikgang et al., 2012). Research is important, as results that demonstrate widespread improvements to mitigating marine pollution (as a result of interventions), are likely to trigger more bans across different jurisdictions. Research to quantify effectiveness of policies to reduce microbead pollution could include end of pipe testing at wastewater treatment plants before and after policies have been implemented . For example, monitoring of microplastic beads in wastewater effluent could reveal baseline data of microplastic releases into the aquatic or marine environment. Announcements of bans normally occur months or years ahead of implementation of bans, and many ju
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Marine Pollution Bulletin xxx (2017) xxx-xxx
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Marine Pollution Bulletin
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com
International policies to reduce plastic marine pollution from single-use plastics
(plastic bags and microbeads): A review
Dirk Xanthos , Tony R. Walker
School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
ARTICLE INFO
Article history:
Received 5 December 2016
Received in revised form 7 February
2017
Accepted 15 February 2017
Available online xxx
Keywords:
Single-use plastics
Microbeads
Plastic bags
Policies
Plastic marine pollution
ABSTRACT
Marine plastic pollution has been a growing concern for decades. Single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads) are a
significant source of this pollution. Although research outlining environmental, social, and economic impacts of marine
plastic pollution is growing, few studies have examined policy and legislative tools to reduce plastic pollution, particu-
larly single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads). This paper reviews current international market-based strategies
and policies to reduce plastic bags and microbeads. While policies to reduce microbeads began in 2014, interventions
for plastic bags began much earlier in 1991. However, few studies have documented or measured the effectiveness of
these reduction strategies. Recommendations to further reduce single-use plastic marine pollution include: (i) research to
evaluate effectiveness of bans and levies to ensure policies are having positive impacts on marine environments; and (ii)
education and outreach to reduce consumption of plastic bags and microbeads at source.
© 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
1. Introduction
Plastics are now ubiquitous in the marine environment, and ur-
gent action is required to mitigate this worsening trend (Rios et al.,
2007; Rochman et al., 2015). In 2010, an estimated 4.8–12.7 Mt of
plastics entered the oceans globally (Jambeck, 2015). A 2014 study
(from six years of research by the 5 Gyres Institute) estimated that
5.25 trillion plastic particles (weighing 269,000 tons) are floating in
the sea. Although the contribution of plastics in man-made garbage is
roughly 10% by mass (Barnes et al., 2009), it is estimated that plas-
tic debris accounts for 60–80% of marine litter (Derraik, 2002), reach-
ing 90–95% in some areas (Walker et al., 1997, 2006; Surhoff and
Scholz-Böttcher, 2016). Due to its durability, the lifespan of plastic is
estimated to be hundreds to thousands of years (Wang et al., 2016). In
2014, UNEP announced concern over the threat of widespread plastic
waste to marine life.
Plastics have been reported as a problem in the marine environ-
ment since the 1970s (Carpenter and Smith, 1972; Colton et al., 1974).
However, only recently has the issue of plastic pollution in marine
and freshwater environments been identified as a global problem
(Andrady, 2011; Eriksen et al., 2013; Vegter et al., 2014;
Eerkes-Medrano et al., 2015; Perkins, 2015). Consequently, marine
plastic pollution has become a significant environmental concern for
governments, scientists, non-governmental organizations, and mem-
bers of the public worldwide (Seltenrich, 2015). Entanglement of
species by marine debris can cause starvation, suffocation, laceration,
infection, reduced reproductive success and mortality (Katsanevakis,
2008;
Corresponding author.
Email address: Dirk.Xanthos@Dal.Ca (D. Xanthos)
Baulch and Perry, 2014; UNEP and NOAA, 2015). Previous stud-
ies focused on entanglement of marine mammals and other species in
net fragment litter or ‘ghost fishing gear’ (Walker and Taylor, 1996;
Laist, 1997; Clapham et al., 1999; Bullimore et al., 2001; Eriksson
and Burton, 2003). For example, Antarctic fur seals are commonly
entangled in plastic marine debris (Walker et al., 1997; Waluda and
Staniland, 2013). Ingestion of plastics by birds (Moser and Lee, 1992;
Robards et al., 1997; Cadee, 2002; Mallory, 2008) and turtles
(Mascarenhas et al., 2004; Bugoni et al., 2001; Tomas et al., 2002)
have also been widely reported. Plastic bags have been identified,
among macroplastic litter items, most harmful to marine biota
(Besseling et al., 2015; Hardesty et al., 2015), but can also have im-
pacts beyond marine species.
The existence of plastics in the marine environment presents a
number of challenges that hinder economic development. Stranded
plastic along shorelines creates an aesthetic issue, which has nega-
tive impacts for tourism (Jang et al., 2014). Economic losses are as-
sociated with reduced tourism revenues, negative impacts on recre-
ational activities, vessel damage, impairment in marine environments,
invasive species transport and damage to public health (Hardesty et
al., 2015). Stranded shoreline plastic also negatively impacts ship-
ping, energy production, fishing and aquaculture resources (Cole et
al., 2011; Sivan, 2011). A conservative estimate of the overall eco-
nomic impact of plastics to marine ecosystems is ~$13 billion US/year
(Raynaud, 2014), although the true environmental costs are difficult
to monetarize. However, reported impacts of marine plastic debris on
marine life include nearly 700 species, from tiny zooplankton to the
largest whales, including fish destined for human consumption. Of
the hundreds of marine species impacted, 17% are IUCN red listed
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.02.048
0025-326/© 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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2 Marine Pollution Bulletin xxx (2017) xxx-xxx
species and at least 10% have ingested plastics (Gall and Thompson,
2015).
1.1. Microplastics vs macroplastics
Plastics are comprised of microplastics (first coined by Thompson
et al. (2004)) and macroplastics. Macroplastics (> 5 mm) enter the ma-
rine environment via dumping or poor waste management (Pettipas
et al., 2016). Over the past decade, growing efforts have been made
to monitor impacts of microplastics in the marine environment
(Seltenrich, 2015). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra-
tion (NOAA) define microplastics as fragments < 5 mm in diameter
(Barboza and Gimenez, 2015), with some researchers using < 1 mm
diameter as the threshold (Goldstein et al., 2012). Microplastics com-
prise: primary microplastics (e.g., microbeads), and secondary mi-
croplastics, from degraded macroplastics (e.g., plastic bags) (Ivar do
Sul and Costa, 2014; UNEP, 2015, 2016; Napper et al., 2015). The
annual global production of plastic is ~ 300 million tonnes (Napper et
al., 2015), with roughly 50% disposed of after a single-use (Mathalon
and Hill, 2014). Established empirical data suggest that large pieces of
plastic (macroplastics) can cause significant harm in the marine envi-
ronment through entanglement (Rios et al., 2007). Recent studies sug-
gest that risks of microplastics (including degraded macroplastics, mi-
crobeads and microplastic fibres) in the marine environment may pose
more of a threat than macroplastics (Browne et al., 2011; Desforges et
al., 2014; Thompson, 2015), but research and policies to reduce pollu-
tion from these sources are lacking.
1.2. Evidence of impacts
Microplastics in the marine environment can travel vast distances
floating in seawater, or sediment to the seabed (UNEP, 2015). The
five plastic gyres established throughout the oceans are well docu-
mented, particularly the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (Goldstein et
al., 2012). Accumulation in these gyres is exacerbated because plas-
tics take centuries to degrade (Cole et al., 2011). In addition to floating
and stranded plastic debris, the deep sea is possibly the largest global
marine litter depocentre (Pham, 2014; Tubau et al., 2015).
Large plastic items, such as discarded fishing rope and nets, can
cause entanglement of invertebrates, birds, mammals, and turtles
(Harper and Fowler, 1987; Walker and Taylor, 1996; Laist, 1997;
Eerkes-Medrano et al., 2015) but marine environment is also conta-
minated with much smaller microplastic particles. These have been
reported at the sea surface (Law and Thompson, 2014), stranded on
shorelines (Claessens et al., 2011), and on the seabed (Van
Cauwenberghe et al., 2015; Tubau et al., 2015). Microbeads are com-
monly white or opaque in colour, and research has found microbeads
to be commonly mistaken for plankton by many surface feeding fish
species. Ingestion of plastics by aquatic organisms is one of the major
deleterious environmental impacts in the marine environment (Baulch
and Perry, 2014; UNEP, 2016). Due to their small size and presence
in pelagic and benthic ecosystems, contaminants associated with mi-
croplastics are potentially bioavailable for many organisms (Barboza
and Gimenez, 2015). Persistent organic pollutants sorbed onto mi-
croplastics can accumulate at concentrations several orders of mag-
nitude higher than in ambient seawater (Andrady, 2011). A growing
concern related to microplastics is that they can also enter the hu-
man food chain through ingestion of fish, shellfish and filter feed-
ers (Mathalon and Hill, 2014; Chang, 2015), causing potential hu-
man health impacts (UNEP, 2015; GESAMP, 2016). Filter-feeding
mussels have been reported to contain microplastics in their tissues
(Besseling et al., 2015; Mathalon and Hill, 2014), but the toxicologi-
cal risks are poorly understood and represents an important challenge
for future research (Goldstein et al., 2012; Seltenrich, 2015; Miranda
and de Carvalho-Souza, 2016).
1.3. Microbeads in cosmetics
Microbeads have increasingly been manufactured (to replace nat-
ural exfoliating materials, including pumice, oatmeal, and walnut
husks) for single-use cosmetics, such as abrasive exfoliating cleansers
and toothpastes (Chang, 2015). Recent studies reported that some
cosmetic products contain approximately as much plastic by weight
as there are in the plastic container packaging (UNEP, 2015). Mi-
crobeads are designed to be disposed of via wastewater treatment
infrastructure. However, wastewater treatment facilities are not de-
signed to remove manufactured microplastic particles, which means
that these are currently released into aquatic ecosystems. An estimated
8 trillion microbeads are released into aquatic environments daily via
wastewater treatment plants (Rochman et al., 2015).
1.4. International strategies to reduce plastic marine debris
Governments have struggled for decades to reduce marine plastic
debris (Rochman et al., 2015). The International Convention for the
Prevention of Pollution From Ships (MARPOL 73/78) was signed in
1973, although a complete ban on the disposal of plastics at sea was
not enacted until 1988. Even though 134 countries agreed to eliminate
plastics disposal at sea, research has shown that the problem of marine
debris has worsened since MARPOL 73/78 was signed. This may be
because the marine debris problem is related to incorrect disposal of
waste on land.
Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) conduct monitor-
ing research on marine debris to increase awareness (Pettipas et al.,
2016). For example, The 5 Gyres Institute and the Joint Group of Ex-
perts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection
engage in awareness campaigns. The Ocean Conservancy oversees
the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). The ICC encourages other
NGOs and volunteer groups to engage in mitigating marine debris
by cleaning up coastal areas across the globe. The Honolulu Strategy
outlines strategies for prevention and management of marine debris.
(UNEP and NOAA, 2015). The Honolulu Strategy has been adapted
across the globe to meet the specific needs of different regions, such
as Canada and the U.S. (Pettipas et al., 2016). Two strategies from
the Honolulu Strategy are of particular interest. One focuses on mar-
ket-based instruments (e.g., levies on new plastic bags) for minimiz-
ing waste. A second strategy creates policies, regulations, and legisla-
tion to reduce marine debris (e.g., imposing bans on microbeads and/
or plastic bag production).
2. Methodology and approach
Impacts of macroplastics are well documented in the literature, but
few studies examine policies related to mitigating single-use plastics
(plastic bags and microbeads) in the marine environment. The lack of
global policy studies aimed at mitigating single-use plastics accumu-
lating in the marine environment was the driver for this study. This
study reviewed current trends of international management practices
related to market-based strategies and policies for banning or adding
levies on single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads), not previ-
ously described in the academic literature.
To address limitations and issues associated with single-use ma-
rine plastic pollution (both plastic bags and microbeads), a systematic
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Marine Pollution Bulletin xxx (2017) xxx-xxx 3
literature review of peer-reviewed and grey literature, as well as NGO
websites, was conducted to assess current policies. Searches using
ProQuest, Science Direct, Web of Science and Google Scholar were
conducted. Search terms included, “microbeads” “plastic bags” “sin-
gle-use plastic” “national policies” “legislation”. Results describing
policies, legislation, bans or laws related to plastic bags or microbeads
were included in this review. Based on these results, recommendations
to support current and future policies on global microbeads and plastic
bag management strategies, and areas for future research were identi-
fied.
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Plastic bag policies
Interventions to reduce the use of plastic bags have been varied
in range and scope. Governments all over the world have strategies
to ban the sale of lightweight bags, charge customers for lightweight
bags and/or generate taxes from stores who sell them (Fig. 1; Table 1).
For example, bans, partial bans, and fees have been enacted by some
local jurisdictions in North America, Australia, and the United King-
dom. Some countries in Europe where interventions are widespread,
impose a fee per bag. Germany and Denmark were early adopters of
plastic bag bans in most retail stores in 1991 and 1994. However, since
2002, countries in Africa, Asia, and the rest of Europe have steadily
introduced bans (South Africa, Bangladesh and India) or levies (Ire-
land) on plastic bag consumption. In most cases, national approaches
have been undertaken. Several countries in Africa and Asia com-
pletely banned the use of plastic bags (Agence France-Press, 2011;
Dikgang et al., 2012; Earth Resource Foundation, n.d.). Additionally,
many African, Asian and European countries have implemented levies
on the use of plastic bags (Zero Waste Scotland, 2014; Poortinga et al.,
2013). Levies range in cost, frequency (e.g., Malaysia charges a levy
on plastic bags on Saturday only (Asmuni et al., 2015)), and in plastic
bag quality (e.g., several countries have levies on bags below a mini-
mum thickness (Dikgang et al., 2012; Block, 2013)). Generally, bans
on plastic bag thickness are inconsistent (ranging between < 20 to
< 60 μm), making environmentally informed decisions for consumers
and retailers difficult.
Across North America, interventions for plastic bags are limited.
Only two cities and six municipalities have imposed levies or bans on
plastic bags in Canada. In the U.S., only four states have imposed
bans or levies on plastic bags, suggesting that North America's poli-
cies for plastic bag interventions are lacking compared to other coun-
tries (e.g., Europe). More widespread bans and levies, especially at
national levels, should be implemented. Complementary strategies to
reduce lightweight plastic bags, include the introduction of reusable
shopping bags by some stores. In South America, plastic bag interven-
tions are severely lacking. For example, Colombia plans to reduce the
use of plastic bags by 80% by the year 2020, and eliminate their use
by the year 2025. In Argentina, only Buenos Aires Province has im-
plemented a plastic bag ban in supermarkets in 2012 and full ban of
plastic bags in supermarkets and hypermarkets, commencing 1 Janu-
ary 2017 (Paya, 2016).
According to Jambeck (2015), countries with coastal borders, dis-
charge plastic into the world's oceans with the largest quantities es-
timated to come from rapidly developing countries (e.g., India and
China). However, both India and China have already introduced bans
of plastic bags. In 2002, India banned the production of ultra-thin plas-
tic bags (< 20 μm) to prevent clogging of municipal drainage systems
and to prevent mortality of cows from ingesting plastic bags contain-
ing food. However, enforcement of bans remains a problem (Clean
Up Australia, 2015). In China, a total plastic bag ban on plastic bags
(< 25 μm), and a fee on plastic bags was introduced on June 1, 2008.
Plastic bag use fell between 60 and 80% in Chinese supermarkets, and
40 billion fewer bags were used. However, the use of plastic bags re-
mains prevalent particularly among street vendors and smaller stores
(Block, 2013).
Although Australia has not ban plastic bags nationally, some states
(South Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory), and some cities
have independently banned them. Introduction of the ‘Zero Waste’
program in South Australia led to a plastic bag ban in October 2008,
reducing an estimated 400 million bags per year. No laws have been
passed in New Zealand to ban or charge for plastic bags (Clean Up
Australia, 2015).
3.2. Microbead policies
Compared to plastic bags, there have been limited interventions to
reduce microbeads, but there has been a rapid proliferation in policies
to reduce the use of microbeads (since 2014) (Fig. 2; Table 2). Most
of these policies relate to the ban of the sale and use of microbeads.
Fig. 1. Phase out of lightweight plastic bags around the world. Plastic bags banned; Taxes on some plastic bags; partial tax or ban (municipal or regional levels) (adapted
from Elekhh - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32400659).
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4 Marine Pollution Bulletin xxx (2017) xxx-xxx
Table 1
Chronology of global plastic bag policy interventions.
Country
(jurisdiction)
Date of ban
(Introduction) Policy framework
Germany (1991) Legislation passed to ensure that retail stores
providing plastic bags pay a tax or levy. Most
retails stores charge 5 or 10 Euro cents/bag.
Following the EU announcement, the country will
charge 20 cents per bag (Clean Up Australia, 2015;
Earth Policy Institute, 2014).
Denmark (1994) Legislation was passed that enforces plastic bag
manufacturers to pay tax based on the weight of
plastic bags. Retail stores are able to pass the cost
of the tax on to consumers. Today, plastic bags cost
consumers between 37 and 65 US cents (Ritch et
al., 2009).
Bangladesh (2002) Legislation passed to ban the manufacture and use of
plastic bags. One of the major drivers of the ban
was the tendency of submerged plastic bags to
exacerbate major floods. While the ban has been in
place, it has not been strictly enforced. (Earth
Resource Foundation, n.d.)
Ireland (2002) Legislation passed to create a levy for sale of plastic
bags in retail stores. The levy started at 15 Euro
cents/bag in 2002, and in 2007, the levy increased
to 22 Euro cents/bag. The levy was increased to 44
Euro cents in 2009. Plastic shopping bags designed
for re-use are exempt from the levy provided the
retailer charges at least 70 Euro cents/bag. The levy
increased in 2007 as bags consumed per capita had
increased during 2006 (Earth Policy Institute,
2014).
South Africa 2002 (2003) Legislation passed to place a ban on plastic bags
< 30 μm thick. Plastic bags > 30 μm were subjected
to the imposition of a levy. Enforcement of the
plastic bag ban has been poor. Acceptance of the
levy by consumers has seen high levels of
consumption continue (Dikgang et al., 2012)
India (2002 and
2005)
Legislation passed in 2002 to ban bags < 20 μm
thick. This was followed in 2005 with a ban of bags
< 50 μm. In 2016, the state of Karnataka introduced
a complete ban on plastic bags. Bans were
implemented to prevent bags from clogging
municipal drainage systems, particularly in
monsoon season. Bans were also implemented to
prevent the nation's sacred cows ingesting plastic
bags when eating food inside bags, which can cause
mortality (Clean Up Australia, 2015).
Taiwan (2003) Legislation passed to ban lightweight bags in a
number of sectors. The ban was overturned in the
food services sector in 2006 due to hygiene
concerns (Clean Up Australia, 2015).
Rwanda 2004 (2008) Rwanda set the goal to become the first plastic-free
nation, as part of their overall goal to become a
middle-income nation. Legislation was passed to
ban the sale, manufacturing, using, and importing
of plastic bags (BBC News, 2008; Pilgrim, 2016).
Eritrea (2005) Legislation passed to ban the use of plastic bags
nationwide (Rayne, 2008).
Tanzania (2006) In 2005, an initial ban was made in Zanzibar for
bags < 100 μm. Legislation was then passed,
banning bags < 30 μm in the remainder of the
country (BBC News, 2008; Earth Policy Institute,
2014).
Botswana (2007) Legislation passed to introduce a levy of up to 50
thebe (approximately 5 US cents) per plastic bag
((Dikgang et al., 2012).
Canada
(Municipal)
(2007–2010) Six municipalities across Alberta, Manitoba, and
Quebec have imposed plastic bag bans. The first of
these occurred in Leaf Rapids, Manitoba in 2007
(CTV News, 2007)
Table 1 (Continued)
Country
(jurisdiction)
Date of ban
(Introduction) Policy framework
Kenya (2007 and
2011)
In 2007, a ban to plastic bags < 30 μm, and a levy
was imposed on bags > 30 μm (Earth Policy
Institute, 2014). Legislation passed to ban plastic
bags < 60 μm, and continue with a levy for thicker
bags (Agence France-Press, 2011).
Uganda (2007 and
2013)
In 2007, a ban to plastic bags < 30 μm, and a levy
was imposed on bags > 30 μm. In 2013, a ban to
the manufacturing and use of most plastic bags.
The ban was introduced because of the nation's
serious concerns for the environment, as well as the
challenges faced by the nation in the management
of plastic (BBC News, 2008)
U.S.
(California)
(2007–2016) No state-wide ban exists. San Francisco became the
first city to ban plastic bags at checkouts in
California in 2007 (Romer, 2010). At least 137
municipal governments (28% by number, not
population) have implemented local bans on single-
use plastic bags (Ballotpedia, 2016). In November
2016, plastic bags were banned throughout
California via a referendum (The New York Times,
2016).
China (2008) Legislation passed to ban shops, supermarkets, and
sales outlets from providing free plastic bags that
are < 25 μm thick. For bags > 25 μm, a levy was
put in place. Exemptions from the ban were in
place for hygiene reasons in the handling and
storage of fresh food. Adherence by retailers has
not been widespread. > 80% of retail stores in rural
regions have continued to provide plastic bags free
of charge. Suiping Huaqiang Plastic, a
20,000-employee plastic bag manufacturer,
experienced the ban's economic effects almost
immediately. The company went out of business
soon after the government announced the plastic
bag policy (Block, 2013).
U.S.
(Washington
D.C.)
2009 (2010) Legislation passed to help protect the Anacostia
River, and money raised from the plastic bag levy
is helping to clean up the river (Government of the
District of Columbia, 2009).
Myanmar (2009 and
2011)
The city of Mandalay banned plastic bags.
Production, use and sale of bags was banned in the
former capital city, Yangon, and the new capital,
Naypyidaw (Clean Up Australia, 2015).
Australia (2009, 2011,
2013)
The states and territories of South Australia (2009),
Tasmania (2013), Australia Capital Territory
(2011), and Northern Territory (2011) have all
introduced bans on plastic bags (Clean Up
Australia, 2015).
Hong Kong (2009 and
2015)
Legislation passed to impose a 50 HK cent levy on
plastic bags. In 2009, the levy was imposed at
major supermarkets and retail outlets. In 2015, the
levy was widened to all retailers. Exemptions from
the ban were in place for hygiene reasons in the
handling and storage of fresh food (Hong Kong
Environmental Protection Department, 2015)
Malaysia (2011) The state of Selangor charges a levy on plastic bags
on Saturdays. The state of Penang charges a levy
every day (Asmuni et al., 2015).
Wales 2011 Legislation passed to place a levy of 5 pence per
plastic bag. In the first three years of operation, the
levy has raised between £17 million and £22
million (Welsh Government, 2014).
Argentina
(Buenos
Aires)
2012 (2017) In Argentina, Buenos Aires Province implemented a
plastic bag ban in supermarkets in 2012 and full
ban of plastic bags in supermarkets and
hypermarkets, commencing 1 January 2017 (Paya,
2016).
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Marine Pollution Bulletin xxx (2017) xxx-xxx 5
Table 1 (Continued)
Country
(jurisdiction)
Date of ban
(Introduction) Policy framework
Canada
(Toronto)
2012–13 The city once had a five cent levy for plastic bags,
and an outright ban on plastic bags was sought in
2012. The plastic bag levy ceded, but the banning
of plastic bags was rejected the City Council in
2013 (Toronto Environmental Alliance, 2013).
Italy (2013) A ban on the sale of non-biodegradable plastic bags.
This ban has not been fully implemented due to
disputes regarding EU trade laws (Earth Policy
Institute, 2014).
Mauritania (2013) A ban on manufacturing, using, and importing
plastic bags. Anyone using, manufacturing or
importing plastic bags could be fined or sentenced
to a year in prison. More than 70% of cattle and
sheep that die in the capital, Nouakchott, are killed
by eating plastic bags (Informal Waste Pickers And
Recyclers, 2013).
Scotland 2014 Legislation passed to place a levy of five pence per
plastic bag (Zero Waste Scotland, 2014).
England 2015 Legislation passed by British parliament to place a
levy of 5 pence per plastic bag. The levy applies at
large retail businesses, which are businesses with
250 or more employees. Smaller businesses can
also charge the levy on a voluntary basis (United
Kingdom Department for Environment Food and
Rural Affairs, 2015).
U.S. (Hawaii) (2015) Legislation passed to ban non-biodegradable plastic
bags. A levy is to be charged for reusable and
compostable bags (City and County of Honolulu's
Department of Environmental Services, 2015).
EU 2015 Legislation passed that is binding for EU state
members. Each nation within the EU is required to
take measures to reduce annual average
consumption of plastic bags to 90 lightweight bags
per citizen by the end of 2019 and 40 per capita by
the end of 2025. Alternatively, a nation needs to
ensure that by the end of 2018, no more light
plastic bags are handed over free of charge to
shoppers. The EU considers plastic bags to be
lightweight if < 50 μm, which includes most plastic
carrier bags used in the EU (European Union,
2015).
Canada
(National)
(2016) In February 2016, Walmart Canada began charging
customers a 5 cent fee for all shopping bags
(Walmart Canada, 2016).
Israel (2016) Legislation passed to introduce a levy that is
currently set at approximately 3 US cents per
plastic bag (Clean Up Australia, 2015).
Netherlands (2016) A ban on the distribution of free bags. A levy of 25
Euro cents per bag is advised, but the rate is not
enforceable. However, a levy is required.
Exemption from the levy applies to bags used for
food or preventing food waste (Plastic Soup
Foundation, 2016).
Puerto Rico (2016) A ban on the use of plastic bags in the
Commonwealth commences on 24 December 2016
(Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, 2015).
Morocco (2016) A ban on the production, import, sale and
distribution of plastic bags commenced on 1 July
2016 (Alami, 2016).
Papua New
Guinea
(2016) A nationwide ban of plastic bags commenced on 1
January 2016. Instead, the government has
promoted the use of traditional and locally
manufactured bilum bags (Pacific Islands News
Association, 2015).
U.S. (New
York City)
2016 (2016) Legislation passed to introduce a levy on plastic
bags, which is due to commence on 1 October
(Gay, 2016).
Table 1 (Continued)
Country
(jurisdiction)
Date of ban
(Introduction) Policy framework
Canada
(Montreal)
2016 (2018) In early 2016, the city of Montreal announced a ban
on bags < 50 μm. This ban is due to commence in
April 2018. The imposition of a levy on bags
> 50 μm is up to the retail outlet. Plastic bag
making industry has 23 companies employing
> 1000 people on the island of Montreal, and a ban
is likely to threaten this industry (Retail Council of
Canada, 2016).
The Netherlands was the first country to announce its intent to be free
of microbeads in cosmetics by the end of 2016, although no legisla-
tion or implementation of a ban has been passed yet (The Economist,
2015). However, the Dutch government and trade organizations have
been active in pressuring industry to cease manufacture of microbeads
or to remove them from their products. They were also one of the Eu-
ropean nations who issued a joint statement requesting a ban of mi-
crobeads within the EU (Beat the Microbead, 2016). In Canada, the
province of Ontario passed legislation banning the manufacture of mi-
crobeads in 2015 (Legislative Assembly of Ontario, 2015). The Cana-
dian federal government classified plastic microbeads as a toxin under
the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), 1999 on June
17th, 2016 (CEPA, 2016). The order was accompanied by a notice of
intent to develop microbead regulations, to prohibit the manufacture,
import and sale of certain exfoliating personal care products (Walker
et al., 2016). In the US, national legislation was passed by the US Con-
gress in December 2015 to control microbead plastics (United States
Congress, 2015; Schwartz, 2015).
In 2016, the UK government announced plans to ban microbeads
in cosmetics and personal care products by the end of 2017 (United
Kingdom Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, 2016).
The ban followed the successful introduction of the five pence plas-
tic bag charge, which led to six billion fewer bags issued during
the first year of implementation (United Kingdom Department for
Environment Food and Rural Affairs, 2015). Banning microbeads in
the UK is the next step in government action to reduce plastic marine
pollution (United Kingdom Department for Environment Food and
Rural Affairs, 2016). Encouragingly, policies around microbeads use
have been national in scope within Europe and North America. How-
ever, no bans have yet been implemented due to the phased approach
that many jurisdictions have adopted (usually 2–3 years). There re-
mains uncertainty how these bans will be implemented and enforced,
and what impact they will have on the marine environment, as there
have been few studies to quantify effectiveness of these policies.
3.3. Effectiveness of policies to reduce single-use plastics
This review highlights research gaps (most notably in follow-up
effectiveness monitoring) in current policies that aim to reduce sin-
gle-use plastic consumption. For example, there are few studies ex-
amining effectiveness of microbeads bans, likely because there are
currently few policies, and those that do exist, have been inconsis-
tently implemented. For example, bans across North America appear
to have been implemented inconsistently (Table 1). States, towns and
municipalities throughout the U.S. have legislated bans without agree-
ments of neighbouring regions; particularly where different jurisdic-
tions share watersheds or coastlines.
Although there is little academic literature assessing effectiveness
of introduced interventions for single-use plastics, some studies on
the efficacy of bans or levies of single-use plastic bags have been en-
couraging (Dikgang et al., 2012; Block, 2013). The 2002 levy (€0.15)
UNCORRECTED PROOF
6 Marine Pollution Bulletin xxx (2017) xxx-xxx
Fig. 2. Timing and number of global plastic bag and microbead interventions.
in Ireland resulted in an immediate reduction (~ 90%) in plastic bag
use by an order of magnitude, from an estimated 328 bags to 21 bags
per capita; and currently at an estimated 14 bags per capita in 2014.
The tax was increased to €0.22 in 2007 and increased again to €0.44
in 2009 because of temporary increases in per capita bag use over the
same period. Revenues generated from the bag tax were contributed
to an Environment Fund (Earth Policy Institute, 2014). Similarly, in
Wales, single-use plastic bag consumption declined by 71% between
2011 and 2014 (when a five pence levy was introduced in October
2011). Statistics released in 2012 by the Welsh Government suggested
that carrier bag use in Wales had reduced 96% since the introduction
of the levy (Welsh Government, 2014). England was the last country
in the UK to adopt the five pence charge for plastic bags, although
some retailers participated voluntarily prior to the government policy.
Following the introduction of the five pence levy in England, plas-
tic bag use at seven major supermarkets dropped by 85% (Smithers,
2016), which translated to approximately six billion fewer bags issued
during the first year of implementation (United Kingdom Department
for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, 2015).
While limited information is available on plastic bag bans, no
studies were found related to efficacy of bans of microbeads. There-
fore, research is required to address this gap for a number of rea-
sons. Monitoring can ensure that interventions are being adhered to.
In South Africa, insufficient monitoring of plastic bag consumption
resulted in an ineffective plastic bag prevention scheme; the levy
was too small, and, overtime, reductions in plastic bag use ceased
(Dikgang et al., 2012). Research is important, as results that demon-
strate widespread improvements to mitigating marine pollution (as a
result of interventions), are likely to trigger more bans across differ-
ent jurisdictions. Research to quantify effectiveness of policies to re-
duce microbead pollution could include end of pipe testing at waste-
water treatment plants before and after policies have been imple-
mented. For example, monitoring of microplastic beads in wastewater
effluent could reveal baseline data of microplastic releases into the
aquatic or marine environment. Announcements of bans normally oc-
cur months or years ahead of implementation of bans, and many ju
risdictions use a phased approach for banning microbeads (e.g., 2015
date of ban, then 2017–2019 for commencement). Therefore, monitor-
ing data can be collected prior to, during phasing out and following
bans to assess effectiveness of bans.
Following the ban of the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and
personal care products containing microbeads, the UK government an-
nounced plans to gather evidence of environmental impacts on the ma-
rine environment from microbeads in household and industrial clean-
ing products, as well as microfibers (United Kingdom Department
for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, 2016). For example, 25
UK cosmetics and toiletries companies (e.g., Unilever), have volun-
tarily phased out microbeads from their products and some super-
market chains (e.g., Waitrose) have already stopped stocking prod-
ucts containing microbeads. The UK government has consulted in-
dustry and environmental groups to establish how a ban could be in-
troduced. Manufacturers across the UK are exploring natural alterna-
tives, including nut shells, salt and sugar, which have exfoliating prop-
erties but do not pose threats to the environment (United Kingdom
Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, 2016). Although
the Dutch government lack legislation to ban microbeads in cosmet-
ics, working with industry and trade organizations has resulted in
~ 80% of cosmetic companies being microbead-free by 2017 (The
Economist, 2015; Beat the Microbead, 2016). In the USA, many cos-
metic companies have also been voluntarily phasing out microbeads
(e.g., Crest) (American Dental Association, 2014).
While some studies highlight a reduction in single-use plastic bags
following the introduction of policies around plastic bag use (Block,
2013; Welsh Government, 2014; Clean Up Australia, 2015; Smithers,
2016), research related to environmental outcomes is still lacking.
Despite limited outcome data, it is recommended that the rapidly
growing global trend of increased levies or, better still, outright bans
continue. It is also recommended that all microbead bans become
implemented, and that further bans continue to be introduced. Re-
search is required to assess whether reductions in single-use plastic
bags are maintained, and indeed, more research is required to de-
termine whether these reductions are having a positive impact on
UNCORRECTED PROOF
Marine Pollution Bulletin xxx (2017) xxx-xxx 7
Table 2
Chronology of global microbead policy interventions.
Country
(jurisdiction)
Date of ban
(commencement) Policy framework
U.S. (Illinois) 2014
(2017–2019)
In June 2014, the state legislature passed
legislation that was due to phase in a ban of the
sale and import of synthetic microbeads
between 2017 and 2019 (Illinois General
Assembly, 2014).
Austria,
Belgium,
Sweden,
Netherlands,
Luxembourg
(Multi-
national)
2015 Through the Council of the European Union
(EU), these countries issued a joint statement
requesting a ban of microbeads within the EU
(Council of the European Union, 2014).
Canada
(Ontario)
2015 (2017) The Ontario parliament passed legislation to ban
microbeads in 2015. The legislation prevents
the manufacture of microbeads in Ontario. This
ban is to commence in June 2017 (Legislative
Assembly of Ontario, 2015).
U.S.
(National)
2015
(2017–2019)
In December 2015, the Microbead-Free Waters
Act of 2015 was passed in the U.S. Congress,
which was an amendment to the Federal Food,
Drug, and Cosmetic Act to ban rinse-off
cosmetics that contain intentionally-added
plastic microbeads beginning on January 1,
2018, and to ban manufacturing of these
cosmetics beginning on July 1, 2017. These
bans are delayed by one year for cosmetics that
are over-the-counter drugs. The ban is to be
phased in between 2017 and 2019. The ban
will cover the manufacturing and importing of
cosmetic products and over-the-counter
medication that include synthetic microbeads
(United States Congress, 2015).
U.S.
(Colorado,
Maine, New
Jersey)
2015
(2017–2019)
In March 2015, the state legislature passed
legislation that was due to phase in a ban of
synthetic microbeads between 2017 and 2019
(Colorado Legislative Services, 2014; Maine
State Legislature, 2015; Levine, 2016).
U.S.
(Wisconsin)
2015
(2017–2019)
In July 2015, the state legislature passed
legislation that was due to phase in a ban of
synthetic microbeads between 2017 and 2019
(Wisconsin State Legislature, 2016).
U.S. (Indiana) 2015
(2017–2019)
In April 2015, the state legislature passed
legislation that was due to phase in a ban of
synthetic microbeads between 2017 and 2019
(Bauer, 2015).
U.S.
(Maryland)
2015
(2017–2019)
In October 2015, the state legislature passed
legislation that was due to phase in a ban of
synthetic microbeads between 2017 and 2019
(General Assembly of Maryland, 2015).
U.S.
(Connecticut)
2015
(2017–2019)
In June 2015, the state legislature passed
legislation that was due to phase in a ban of the
sale and import of synthetic microbeads
between 2017 and 2019 (Connecticut General
Assembly, 2015).
U.S.
(California)
2015
(2017–2019)
In October 2015, the state legislature passed
legislation that was due to phase in a ban of the
sale and import of synthetic and biodegradable
microbeads between 2017 and 2019 (California
Legislative Information, 2015).
U.S. (New
York) –
Albany, Erie,
Chautauqua,
Cattaraugus
and Suffolk
counties
2015
(2017–2019)
Erie County was the first of the five counties to
ban microbeads. This county's ban includes the
banning of biodegradable microbeads. While
Erie County planned to ban microbeads in
2016, it is not being strictly enforced due to the
many products in retail stores that contain
microbeads (Erie County Legislature, n.d.;
Tan, 2016).
U.K. (Multi-
national)
2016 (2018) The U.K. has pledged to ban microbeads by the
end of 2017 (BBC News, 2016; United
Kingdom Department for Environment Food
and Rural Affairs, 2016).
Table 2 (Continued)
Country
(jurisdiction)
Date of ban
(commencement) Policy framework
Canada
(National)
2016
(2018–2019)
Canada became the first country to list
microbeads as a “toxic substance”
(Government of Canada, 2016a). Proposed
regulations are to ban the manufacture, import,
and sale of products containing microbeads to
be phased in during 2018 and 2019
(Environment and Climate Change Canada,
2016; Government of Canada, 2016b).
aquatic or marine environments. Similar research will be required fol-
lowing implementation of microbead bans. Lag times for commence-
ment of microbead bans (normally 2–3 years following announce-
ments), create issues for immediate source control. However, this lag
time could provide lead time to develop appropriate and effective
monitoring (i.e., before and after measurements). Accurately quanti-
fying effectiveness of various strategies (i.e., source controls), would
require internationally coordinated monitoring campaigns where data
could be synthesized across studies, to provide a global picture of
the effectiveness of intervention strategies (GESAMP, 2016). This re-
search should seek to measure and demonstrate benefits of these poli-
cies using quantitative methods, benefits to the environment, economy
and society should also be considered.
Education and outreach programs to modify behaviour should be
widely adopted (Kershaw et al., 2011). Incorporating ocean educa-
tion, pollution, and waste management in schools could be extremely
valuable. For example, a study by Hartley et al. (2015) found that
school children in the UK significantly improved their understanding
of the causes and negative impacts of marine litter after education in-
tervention related to plastic marine debris. Education and behavioural
change of children is crucial as they represent an important source of
social influence among their peers, parents and community (Hartley et
al., 2015). Targeting youth and other stakeholders (e.g., citizens, gov-
ernments, industry and NGOs) is an effective way to promote posi-
tive change and help increase awareness, through events like World
Oceans Day (http://www.worldoceansday.org/) (Pettipas et al., 2016).
Policy tools discussed in this study (e.g., bans, levies) are just
some of the solutions required to tackle this growing global plastic
debris problem. It has been reported that one of the best strategies
to mitigate plastic pollution would be to reduce its consumption at
source (Jambeck, 2015). Therefore, it is recommended that education,
outreach and awareness about the issues of marine plastic pollution,
particularly the contribution of plastic bags and microbeads, be con-
ducted. As awareness grows, presumably plastic bag and microbead
marine pollution would also decline.
4. Conclusions
This review of current international market-based strategies and
policies to minimize single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads)
provides important information and highlights gaps for decision and
policy makers. While measures to reduce plastic bag pollution have
long been established, many countries still lack any implementation
strategies. Likewise measures taken to mitigate microbead pollution
are relatively new and are restricted to just a few countries. Lag times
for commencement of microbead bans delays immediate source con-
trol, but could provide opportunities to develop appropriate and effec-
tive monitoring campaigns.
Internationally, all interventions to reduce single-use plastics vary
in range and scope. Policies have been developed across a number of
UNCORRECTED PROOF
8 Marine Pollution Bulletin xxx (2017) xxx-xxx
nations to ban primarily the use and sale of, but also the manufacturing
of microbeads. Measures to reduce plastic bag pollution have included
bans (including both full and partial) and levies, and these interven-
tions have occurred both regionally and nationally. Although reduc-
tion strategies provide tools to reduce single-use plastics at source, it is
recommended that consistent measures continue to be implemented to
mitigate plastic bag and microbeads pollution. However, it is equally
important that research measure the positive impacts of these mea-
sures in the short- and long-term. Education campaigns will likely help
to further reduce plastic pollution caused by microbeads and plastic
bags at source.
Uncited references
Assembly Bill 15, 2016
Council of the District of Columbia, 2012
Acknowledgements
No funding was required to conduct this study and there is no con-
flict of interest identified.
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... However, in this regulation, products containing "natural polymers, long molecules that are not synthesized and chemically modified" are excluded from the scope of the ban. Moreover, the government stated that the implementation of these policies and prohibitions at the EU level, not at the national level, would yield more effective results [124]. While the manufacture of microbeads used in rinses and cosmetics was banned by the British Government in January 2018, rinsing and cosmetic products containing microbeads were banned from June onwards. ...
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Yes, we are eating plastic-ingesting fish. A baseline assessment of plastic pellet ingestion by two species of important edible fish caught along the eastern coast of Brazil is described. The rate of plastic ingestion by king mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla) was quite high (62.5%), followed by the Brazilian sharpnose shark (Rhizoprionodon lalandii, 33%). From 2 to 6 plastic resin pellets were encountered in the stomachs of each fish, with sizes of from 1 to 5 mm, and with colors ranging from clear to white and yellowish. Ecological and health-related implications are discussed and the potential for transferring these materials through the food-chain are addressed. Further research will be needed of other species harvested for human consumption.