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A new ban puts the nation at the forefront of plastic restrictions worldwide.

By Maggie Burch

There’s often a lot of hopeless news out there about the ocean and the seriously detrimental impact human beings are having on it—especially when it comes to the plastic products we use and improperly dispose of. And although there is plenty each of us can individually do, it’s so much more heartening to learn that a large-scale change is being made thanks to a few influential people.

The island of Jamaica is bringing us that good news this fall, with an announcement that the country will ban single-use bags, single-use plastic straws, and styrofoam starting January 1, 2019.

The ban puts the Caribbean nation at the forefront of plastic restrictions worldwide. When the ocean and beach are such a big part of your country’s lifestyle and culture (not to mention economy), it makes sense that Jamaica would want to be part of the solution when it comes to preserving our oceans.

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The ban applies to the import, manufacture, and distribution of plastic bags smaller than 24 inches by 24 inches. As an alternative, the country is encouraging its citizens to start carrying reusable tote bags for shopping. Exemptions to the ban for safe food packaging and disability-compliant plastic straw usage will be allowed.

Groups in Jamaica have already committed to strengthening its recycling and ocean clean-up efforts, as an estimated 600 million plastic bottles are used each year in the island nation. The ban aims to limit the plastic pollution in Jamaica so that necessary cleanup projects will eventually wane, not increase.

Worldwide, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year, and there are around 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic just floating around the ocean right now.