Chilean President Sebastian Pinera made an announcement at a public ceremony in Santiago to say that a new law was being enacted to ban the use of plastic bags by commercial businesses. According to a report by Sky News, Chile is the first Latin American country to enforce the ban.

Pinera said he wanted to share with the public in Chile “the joy” of knowing that the ban on commercial-use plastic bags was enacted on Friday. The president then went on to hand out cloth bags to people watching the address.

Businesses given time to phase out the use of plastic bags

Large businesses in Chile have six months in order to phase out the commercial use of plastic bags, while smaller businesses have two years to respond to the new law. The only type of plastic bag allowable is primary packaging which is necessary for food hygiene or which would prevent food from being wasted. In the meantime, businesses will be limited to giving customers two plastic bags for each transaction. Pinera said that without doubt, the new law is a huge step towards a cleaner Chile.

Plastic bag bans in the world

In June this year, Mumbai became the largest city in India to ban the use of single-use plastics.

Anyone in Mumbai caught using plastic bottles, cups or bags faces fines of up to 25,000 rupees (£250) along with three months in jail. In contrast, Chilean businesses who flout the law could face fines of 370 peso (44p). While this doesn’t sound much, the minimum wage in the country is $800 (96p).

As reported by the BBC, Australia, Taiwan, Kenya and Zimbabwe are among other countries enacting a ban against the use of plastic bags.

Kenya launched the ban in August 2017 and anyone in that country producing, using or selling plastic bags would be hit with a four-year jail sentence. Panama introduced legislation in January to curb the use of the bags. In that country, businesses have 24 months to phase out the usage.

Meanwhile, countries like Spain have introduced sturdy, multi-use shopping bags at the tills in supermarkets in the hope of dissuading customers from using single-use plastic bags.

Should a customer still require a plastic bag, they pay anything from 2c to 5c for a strong, reusable bag. Since 2015, England has imposed a compulsory 5p charge per bag.

As noted in the tweet above, plastic bags take seconds to produce, are usually used for less than half-an-hour, but take "400 years to biodegrade." Environmentalists are appalled at the level of plastic rubbish which is affecting our oceans.