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  • “Where do the plastic bags go?...90 percent of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs,” Piñera said.

    “Where do the plastic bags go?...90 percent of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs,” Piñera said. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 May 2018

“They cause great damage to nature… our environment and also our health," the Chilean president said.

A notice arrived to Chile’s Congressional court from President Sebastian Piñera Tuesday proposing a nationwide ban on plastic bags citing the damages to both the environment and health.

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“A bag is manufactured in a minute, used for half an hour and remains for 400 years in our nature,” the president said in a Facebook Live message.

Approximately 3,400 million bags cycle through the Chilean commercial market from distributor, retailer, and finally to consumer.

“Where do the plastic bags go? In landfills, in the fields, in the mountain range, in the sea...90 percent of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs,” Piñera said.

An average person uses 200 plastic bags and an “island of plastic bags” the size of Mexico floats between Chile and Peru, he continued.

“They cause great damage to nature… our environment and also our health...We must go back to using gender and recycling bags, abandon the life of the disposable culture and give it a strong mandate to take care of the environment."

Last year, former President Michelle Bachelet instituted a plastic-bag ban in over 100 coastal towns. Consequently, some 1.6 million square kilometers of marine habitats are now protected, ten times more than what was instituted in 2014.

Additionally, the fossil fuels used in plastic production contribute to air pollution through the immense consumption of energy and are one of the primary factors linked to greenhouse gases and climate change.

The South American nation battled its share of natural disasters last year. In January, the country faced the worst wildfires in its history, requiring international assistance to control the flames from spreading. One month later, heavy rains and major flooding left over 350 destitute and at least three dead.

A week ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) delivered a report on the global urban air quality, analyzing the emissions of 4,357 cities in 108 countries from 2010 to 2016. Six Chilean cities made the top twenty cities on the continent for the highest levels of pollution.

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