Chile will become the first Latin American country to prohibit the use of plastic bags in all coastal cities within the next 12 months.
Speaking during the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said the ban "will allow the public to contribute towards protecting the oceans."
Bachelet also wants the government to coordinate beach cleanups during peak vacation times to complement the legislation.
Both efforts are a part of the government's commitment to reduce global warming.
Chile’s congress will vote on the bill next month.
If it is passed, businesses found using and distributing the bags could face a US$300 fine.
Chile’s Environment Minister Marcelo Mena wrote on his Twitter account that he was “proud” to be Chilean following the president’s announcement. Mena added that 80 million tons of plastic are in the ocean and that “90 percent of all marine birds have plastic in their stomach. If we don’t regulate the use of plastic by 2050 there’ll be more bags in the ocean than fish."
The move to legislate plastic bag usage along the coast comes after a study released in September by The Waste Atlas, which found that Chile is one of the leading producers of plastic waste in the world.
Chileans produce 1.25 kilograms of waste per day per person on average. That same month researchers found a floating island of plastic off the coast of Chile that measured more than 2 million kilometers in diameter.
The bill to ban plastic bags targets the coast because, according to Greenpeace Chile, most of the plastic garbage found at the country’s coastline is left there by vacationing, urban Chileans from the interior.