South Korea Joins String Of Countries Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags From Supermarkets

The dangers of single-use plastics has become more and more common knowledge in recent years, and countries around the world have been clamping down on them in what seems to be slow progress. But 2018 saw a number of countries introduce new rules that would finally ban single-use plastic bags from being available in grocery stores.

As reported by CNN, South Korea is the latest one to join the list. On New Year's Eve, it was announced that major supermarkets in the country will no longer be allowed to offer consumers disposable plastic bags when they do their weekly shop. South Korea's Ministry of Environment announced that the new rule is an effort to conserve natural resources in the country, as well as better manage the recyclable waste.

The Asian nation also decided they wouldn't be wasting any time rolling out the amendment to the existing law, with it coming into effect on January 1, 2019.

It will affect 2,000 large supermarkets and 11,000 supermarkets in the country. Before the law change, those stores were not allowed to distribute plastic bags for free, having to charge customers a small fee per bag. Now they will be prohibited from giving customers any single-use plastics, except for the purpose of holding wet items like fish or meat.

Instead, grocery stores will have to offer more eco-friendly -- and recyclable -- alternatives such as paper or cloth bags for their shopping. Supermarkets who are found to be violating the new law will face fines that could amount to 3 million won (about $2,700).

The ministry hopes that the ban on plastic bags will lead to other measures, such as the ban of single-use plastic straws.

Other countries that have also initiated bans on plastic bags in their grocery stores. Australia, the UK, France, China, New Zealand, and the Netherlands have all brought in bans in the past year. Kenya has brought in a very harsh law as well, which could see those violating the new law spending up to four years behind bars for the offense.

China's ban has seen them outlaw the import of 24 varieties of solid waste, including types of plastic and unsorted paper. This change has put massive pressure on Europe to find ways to deal with their own waste. In October, the EU voted to ban plastics of the single-use variety, including straws, cotton buds, and cutlery, and to force people to recycle their plastic bottles.

By some assessments, there is approximately 150 million tons of plastic in the world's oceans, and more are being dumped in it every day. Estimates have suggested there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, which has spurred governments and businesses all over the world into making major policy changes.