Chile has just voted to become the first country in the Americas to ban plastic bags from stores across the country in an effort to reduce unnecessary waste.
The measure, which initially banned plastic bags in Patagonia, was approved on Wednesday by the senate and president in a bid to help tackle the nation's plastic bag problem.
Minister of the Environment Marcela Cubillos said there must be a cultural change regarding how citizens make purchases and replace using plastic bags in the home.
A website, chaobolsasplasticas.cl, has been launched by the Environment Ministry to educate Chileans about the new law. It says the measure will come into effect in six months for store purchases, while small- and medium-sized businesses will have up to two years to comply. Biodegradable bags aren't yet readily available in Chile.
"The site contains the answers to citizens' questions about the implementation of the law if approved, and a map with the 58 communes of the country that already have a regulation on plastic bags," says a ministry of environment communique.
The site also includes Congress members who have worked on this initiative over the past 10 years. Last year, in another unprecedented environmental step, Congress banned plastic bags in at least a dozen coastal communities.
According to the Association of Plastic Industries (Asipla), Chile uses 3,400 million plastic bags per year. That's 200 bags per person.
The association estimates that plastic bags, which were widely introduced in the late 1970s, take seconds to produce, are used for about 15 to 30 minutes, and take nearly 400 years to degrade.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy estimates that about 100 million marine mammals are killed each year by plastic pollution.