Close your eyes and envision Morocco. Are you picturing a secluded haven of kaleidoscopic riads with glittering natural beaches? True, the small North African country teems with beauty around every corner. Sadly, though, many people don’t realize Morocco fought an ongoing battle with one of the environment’s most formidable enemies: plastic bags.

A 2013 study showed Moroccan cities were only able to discard 70 percent of trash. The majority of these bags are left to pollute the country’s picturesque natural landscapes for centuries to come as they persist in the environment. Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to decompose, entangling wildlife and transforming pristine natural beauty into man-made monstrosity.

Morocco uses three billion plastic bags annually --  the second largest plastic bag consumer in the world after the United States. That’s 900 plastic bags used per person every single year!

Luckily, Morocco is no stranger to environmental activism. The coastal country ranks among one of the greenest in the world due to its efforts to crackdown on deleterious carbon emissions. And now they’re getting rid of the extra baggage. The movement started in 2009 when Morocco banned black plastic bags in order to reduce the unsightly and unhealthy amounts of litter in streets and on beaches.

Last October, the Moroccan Parliament took things a step further by passing a landmark bill to ban the production, import, sale, and distribution of all plastic bags across the country. The bill was signed into law on July 1, and has already proven to make for a substantial adjustment for Moroccan citizens.

A week before the legislation passed, street vendors and shop owners nationwide scrambled to stock-up on coveted plastic bags. Green campaigners predict that the total ban unfortunately won’t be a swift or seamless transition for citizens.  Likely, it will take years of adjusting to fully adapt to sound alternatives such as paper bags and thicker, reusable totes.

The payoff will be monumental for the country’s environmental health.  Morocco has set a noble example for the rest of the world.  If the second largest plastic bag consumer in the world can ban these hazardous bags altogether, think of the potential of green-conscious countries around the world!

Morocco is joined in its complete ban of plastic bags by China and the African countries of Uganda, Somalia, Rwanda, Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, and Ethiopia. In 2015, England took the step to place an official bag charge of 5p on all companies with 250 or more employees.

What will it take for the United States, the global leader in plastic bag usage, and others to follow suit and start taking action against one of the world’s most harmful and most accessible pollutants?

This article was contributed by Marilyn Smith, Global Citizen. 


Defend the Planet

Morocco says no more: Why plastic bags are on their way out