American Samoa lauded for plastic bag ban

American Samoa continues to reap praise for its decision to ban plastic bags, as the US government is the latest to join those lauding the move.

Itself an unincorporated territory of the US, American Samoa finalised a new law in August that would see the distribution of single-use plastic bags in shopping centres made illegal from February 2011.

Speaking at the time, Governor Togiola Tulafono, who holds executive power over the territory, said the measure was designed to preserve the islands’ idyllic environment. In a letter in support of the bill, he added that it was a “step in the right direction toward protecting the natural beauty of our islands and our native land and sea creatures.”

Compostable plastic bags are exempt from the bill, however, as it only targets petroleum-based bags which are believed to take up to 1,000 years to decompose.

Last Thursday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a statement saying American Samoa’s decision was a “landmark”, and directly linked the move to reducing the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ – a floating mire of plastics and sludge off of the US western coast.

“We welcome American Samoa’s leadership in the Pacific islands to ban plastic shopping bags,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

“This action will decrease the amount of plastic waste in the territory and directly protect marine and bird life in the Pacific. [This] landmark move not only helps the local environment, it helps prevent plastic shopping bags from ending up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”

American Samoa – which ratified its plastic bag bill the same week California lawmakers voted against a similar move in the States proper – is the first US territory to enact such a ban, although many cities across the country already have such measures in place.

Sam Plester

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