Last year, England’s seven major supermarkets packed the country’s groceries with more than 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags—a number that’s been rising steadily for years. But environmentalists are hoping that the wasteful habit will end today, as a five-pence-per-bag charge (that’s about eight cents on this side of the pond) goes into effect for large retailers.
The above video, a kind of anti–American Beauty, explains why plastic bags are so harmful to the environment and how efforts to cut their use have panned out in other countries. Denmark, for example, introduced a plastic-bag tax in 1993. Today, its citizens each use just four a year. The United States might want to take notes…so far only California, Hawaii, and D.C. have some kind of ban or tax in place. That means in 2014, Americans went through enough plastic bags to circle the equator 1,330 times. Sorry, Ricky Fitts, but it’s hard to find the beauty in that.
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