When you think of the country of Armenia what comes to mind might be famous Armenian-Americans like Cher or the Kardashians. But did you know that in spring 2018, Armenians took to the streets to protest a corrupt government? Through peaceful protest, Serzh Sargsyan was swept from power and Nikol Pashinyan was elected. Two years later, the small landlocked country which borders Iran, Turkey, and Georgia, is ready to deal with plastic pollution.
The Armenian government announced on January 23 it approved a draft of a law that bans the use of single-use plastics starting January 1, 2022. The law would specifically ban the use of plastic bags that are 50 microns in thickness. The government imposed a tax on plastic bags on July 1, 2019. Armenia’s neighboring country Georgia enacted a similar plastic bag ban in 2018.
“It will be good if by 2022 we are already de facto attuned to the reality that we want to achieve de jure by 2022 through our behavior, our awareness So I urge the citizens of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh to use as few plastic bags as possible and to use multiple-use bags instead.”
Armenia’s big plastic waste problem
There are around 5,000 to 6,000 tons of plastic waste generated in Armenia every year, according to the UN, and less than 15 percent of it is recycled. The rest of it ends up in the environment. As the Armenian Weekly stated, “Stand outside of any supermarket in Yerevan for an afternoon and Armenia’s plastic problem comes into focus. In a larger, wealthier nation, it’s easy to lose sight of the waste stream, or how our plastics end up in landfills and waterways. In Armenia, plastic pollutants are impossible to ignore. Trash is everywhere, and it has nowhere to go.”
What makes plastic waste that much more of a problem for Armenia is that the country does not have a proper waste management system, according to the Armenian Environmental Network. Instead of landfills that are constructed to be sanitary and environmentally safe, Armenia has hundreds of dumps.
Single-use plastics are a blight on the environment globally
Plastic use has continued to soar since the 1950s. Nine billion tons of plastic have been produced and only nine percent have been recycled. Most plastic waste winds up in the environment or in landfills. By 2050 there will be 12 billion tons of plastic waste in the environment and landfills if current plastic use and waste management practices remain the same. By 2050, the plastic industry could account for 20 percent of the world’s total oil use.
The reason that plastic waste is such a big environmental problem is that most plastics do not biodegrade but break down slowly into smaller pieces called microplastics. The world’s oceans are swimming in microplastics, and so are many lakes, rivers, and streams. Over half of all non-fiber plastic is from packaging, and most of that is only single-use.
One effective way to reduce plastic waste is to enact a ban. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, plastic bans “prevent millions of tons of plastic from entering the waste stream each year.” For a small country like Armenia, preventing that much plastic waste will make a big difference.
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