Mexico City Ban on Single-Use Plastics Takes Effect

Mexico City Ban on Single-Use Plastics Takes Effect
A single use plastic water bottle sits amongst a pile of seaweed on the shore of Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit, on Aug. 2, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY—A broad ban on single-use containers, forks, straws, and other ubiquitous items takes effect in Mexico’s capital, one of the world’s largest cities, after more than a year of preparation.

On Friday, Mexico City’s environmental secretary said via Twitter that “from today on Mexico City [is] without single-use plastics.” The message urged people to think of always carrying reusable containers in a similar fashion to never leaving home without their cellphones.

Mexico City lawmakers passed the ban on plastic bags, utensils, and other disposable plastic items in 2019. The city of 9 million people has spent the past year adjusting or in some cases ignoring the impending law change. The ban on plastic bags took effect last year.

Light, allegedly biodegradable bags have become more common at the city’s street food stalls. Plastic straws are offered less often. Fresh tortillas are handed over wrapped in paper or cloths that buyers bring with them.

But without the imposition of fines, the change will likely be slow in coming.

On Friday morning, a woman selling tamales under a large umbrella at the corner of a busy Mexico City avenue slid two into a plastic bag and offered two small colorful plastic spoons from a cup filled with them. Asked if she was aware of the ban taking effect she said she was, “but with the coronavirus, they [authorities] forgot about it.”

Mexico City is currently under red alert as its hospitals’ COVID-19 beds hover near capacity.

The woman, who declined to give her name because she didn’t want to be singled out for enforcement, said it wasn’t just her. She said vendors and market stalls were still using plastic all over the city.

She asked how she was supposed to give customers steaming hot tamales without a plastic bag.

The ban also covers disposable plastic cups, plastic stirrers, single-use coffee capsules, and balloons among other items.

In 2019, Mexico City produced about 13,000 tons of garbage per day, according to the capital’s environmental agency.

By Christopher Sherman