"Earlier this week, Mexico City became the second largest metropolis in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw the distribution of plastic shopping bags.
"Hailed as one of the fastest ways to cut down on solid waste, the new ordinance will affect thousands of retail stores and almost 19 million people living in the district and surrounding communities that make up greater Mexico City.
"In good circumstances, high-density polyethylene will take more than 20 years to degrade. In less ideal circumstances (landfills or as general refuse), a bag will take more than 1,000 years to degrade, according to Reusit.com.
"Mexico City is just one more in an ever-growing list of large urban areas banning plastic bags, which are costly to produce, environmentally destructive, and toxic when buried in a landfill.
"In March of 2007, San Francisco enacted an ordinance that gave supermarkets six months and large chain pharmacies about a year to phase out the bags. Los Angeles is set to impose a similar ban if the state of California does not enact a statewide 25-cent fee per bag by July.
"Around the world, plastic bags are either completely banned or significantly taxed in: South Africa, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, several cities in India, China, Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. Both the United Kingdom and Australia are considering similar measures.
"People who might like to recycle their plastic bags find that they are unable to mix them in with normal curbside materials. In many cases, bags can be recycled at the store from which they originated, but many doubt that these actually make it to a recycling facility.
"Although recycling bags is on the rise in the United States, an estimated 90 billion thin bags a year, most used to handle produce and groceries, go unrecycled (McClatchy)."