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Mexico City begins 2021 with ban on single-use plastics

January 2, 2021

One of the world's biggest cities has prohibited the use of single-use plastic materials including plastic forks, straws and cups. Mexico's capital is striving to revamp its image as an eco-friendly, sustainable city.

Food vendors in Mexico
Mexico City produces more than 7 million tons of plastic per yearImage: DW/J. Perea

Mexico City on Friday introduced a ban on single-use plastics following a year-long preparation.

Lawmakers passed the ban on plastic bags, utensils and other disposable plastic items in 2019, aiming to reduce non-biodegradable plastics and hoping to turn Mexico's capital into  a more sustainable city.

The new law took effect last year. The city of 9 million people, one of the world's largest, has spent the past year adjusting to the changes.

In a statement, city authorities declared that "the commercialization, distribution and delivery of single-use plastic products is prohibited" as of January 1.

Mexico City's environmental secretary announced on Twitter Friday that "from today on Mexico City is without single-use plastics" and called on people to consider always carrying reusable containers.

The ban includes single-use containers, forks, straws, cotton swabs, disposable plastic cups, plastic stirrers, single-use coffee capsules and balloons among other items.

Urging citizen support

Greenpeace's Ornela Garelli lauded the ban as "a good measure, even in times of the pandemic."

"To be effective, the measure requires the support of citizens … to transform our consumption habits and strive towards more sustainable lifestyles," the activist told Spanish news agency EFE.

"We also have a very important role in ensuring that the ban is actually enforced," she added.

But without the imposition of fines, a complete end to single-use plastics seems unlikely. Mexico City authorities have indicated that during the first months of the measure no fines will be imposed and that they will first focus on informing citizens.

At the corner of a busy Mexico City avenue, a street food vendor selling tamales was seen handing out the traditional Mesoamerican dish to customers with plastic spoons and a plastic bag. She told the Associated Press that due to the coronavirus, authorities "forgot about it (the ban)."

Last year alone, Mexico City produced around 13,000 tons of garbage per day, according to the capital's environmental agency. The city also produces more than 7 million tons of plastic per year. Around 48% of it is used for packaging and while much of it is recyclable, a lot of the materials does not end up being recycled.

Single-use bags made from jute?

mvb/aw (EFE, AP)

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