Effective January 1, Thailand’s plastic bag ban in major stores follows a yearlong campaign against single-use plastics after several incidents in which animals died from plastic blocking their digestive systems (Reuters). In 2019, 23 dugongs were found dead with plastic inside, a record number for the critically endangered marine mammal species. Plastic bags currently make up a large portion of plastic waste found in Thai waters (Bangkok Post). The recent ban is the latest step towards a complete ban on single-use plastic bags by 2021 (Reuters). 

Mexico City’s ban on plastic bags takes effect on January 8. Under the new law, grocery stores will be fined for giving out plastic bags. Instead, most stores will sell reusable shopping bags made of thick plastic fiber for about 75 cents. By 2021, the law will also ban plastic straws, spoons, and other single-use items. Critics have raised concerns that poorer residents will find it difficult to pay the 75-cent bag fee -- equivalent to the hourly minimum wage (AP News). 

According to a UN Environment report, 127 countries currently regulate plastic bags. Despite recent action, demand for plastics grew 3.5% in 2019 and up to 16% in much of Asia. Only less than 9% of plastic is recycled, with approximately 8 million tons ending up in the oceans (Guardian). A recent WWF International study concluded that people could be ingesting the equivalent of a credit card's volume of plastic a week, mainly from drinking water and food such as shellfish (Reuters).