Alfredo Moser creates light out of plastic bottles.
Image YouTube/Plastic bottle light "

A new law banning plastic bags takes effect in Mexico starting Wednesday to promote the use of reusable synthetic fiber bags. The law, which was passed by the capital’s Congress in May, will affect all businesses except those selling perishable food items such as meat and fish.

For centuries, residents of Mexico’s massive city used reusable cloths and woven straw baskets when buying goods. However, this practice has been obsolete over the last three decades as the use of plastic bags became more popular. With the new plastic ban, residents and businesses have no choice but to return to the old ways.

According to Environment Secretary Marina Robles Garcia, the law also prohibits plastic manufacturers from selling plastic bags to businesses in Mexico City starting Jan. 1. Businesses that fail to comply with the plastic ban will face fines ranging from US $120 to $8,950.

In a statement, Mexico City’s Environmental Awareness Director Claudia Hernandez revealed that while some are still struggling to comply with the ban and ditch single-use plastic bags in favor of synthetic fiber bags, some have already started using reusable bags when visiting grocery stores,. “We have a very rich history in ways to wrap things,” she said. “We are finding that people are returning to baskets, to cucuruchos,” she added, referring to cone-shaped paper rolls used to wrap loose bulk goods.

Meanwhile, grocery stores that have already complied with the law are now selling reusable shopping bags to their customers, selling them for at least 75 cents—something that does not sit well with some residents. “They are not giving them away, they are selling them, and that is what I don’t agree with,” said Ernesto Gallardo Chavez, a city subway worker. “Just imagine, I forget my bag and I buy a lot of stuff. How do I carry it all, if they don’t give you bags anymore?” he added.

Since the law was passed in May, authorities have met on several occasions with representatives of the plastic industry to discuss the implementation of the plastic ban. Currently, they are working on the eventual prohibition of the distribution and commercialization of other plastic products such as straws, disposable spoons and forks, plates, cups, coffee stirrers and balloons. The government is reportedly planning to ban these products starting January 2021.

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