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Executive Summary for September 29th

In our weekly roundup, we report on Chile’s move to ban plastic bags in coastal cities, Japan’s mining of the seabed for minerals, and how Seattle eliminated 2 million plastic straws in September.

Published on Sep. 29, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Chile Moves to Ban Plastic Bags

President Michelle Bachelet of Chile said her government would introduce legislation to ban plastic bags in cities along the country’s 4,000-mile (6,400km) coastline.

“We are going to present a bill that will ban the usage of plastic bags in coastal cities within the next 12 months,” Bachelet said during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. “It will allow citizens to contribute in terms of ocean protection. Thus, we will be the first American country to implement a law of this nature.”

Chile’s environment minister, Marcelo Mena, called such a ban “fundamental to protect the oceans and their biodiversity,” according to a report in the Santiago Times.

“It also covers the issue of rubbish management, which we must deal with in the short term, because the consequences of not acting puts the preservation of these species at risk,” he said.

Chile uses 3.4 billion plastic bags a year, and 97 percent of them end up in landfills or the ocean, according the environment ministry.

Bloomberg BNA reported that the country’s plastics industry would try to persuade legislators to reject a ban in favor of greater recycling requirements.

“This is going to have a drastic effect on our business – we shall have to lay off workers,” said Roberto Bessalle of plastic bag distributor Plásticos Bessalle, who noted that coastal cities comprise a third of the company’s market.

Japan Mines Seabed for Minerals

Japan has undertaken the first large-scale mining operation of the seabed, extracting ore from the ocean floor off the coast of Okinawa.

The Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC) in August lowered excavators to the seabed 5,200 feet (1,600m) below the surface to collect deposits that contained zinc, gold, copper and lead, according to the Japan Times.

Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry stated that it believes the zinc recovered is equivalent to the country’s annual consumption of the mineral.

The area mined falls within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The country currently imports most of the minerals it consumes. Seabed mining could allow Japan to “possibly become a resource-producing nation if abundant quantities of deposits were confirmed,” the ministry stated.

The International Seabed Authority regulates the mining of the ocean floor outside national jurisdiction and is currently drafting environmental regulations to govern the extraction of minerals from the deep-sea habitats home to unique marine life.

Seattle Eliminates 2 Million Plastic Straws

The Lonely Whale Foundation’s “Strawless in Seattle” campaign has resulted in the elimination of 2 million plastic straws in September, according to the organization founded by actor and environmental activist Adrian Grenier.

The city’s airport, port, aquarium, restaurants and sports teams joined the effort to eliminate the use of plastic straws or replace them with biodegradable alternatives during the month of September in an effort to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean.

The Lonely Whale now plans to expand the campaign to other cities.

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