The Governor of the Red Sea in Egypt has decreed that the Red Sea will be the first plastic bag free Governorate with effect from 1st January 2009. This decree represents a considerable step forward in tackling the issues caused by excess rubbish and in particular plastic bags in the Red Sea.

Plastic bags pose a massive hazard to birds, turtles, dolphins and other marine creatures that are killed in alarming numbers each year after swallowing or becoming entangled in plastic bags blown out to sea. Turtles easily mistake plastic bags for yummy jellyfish. Once in the stomach, the indigestible plastic wraps itself around the intestines of the creature and it slowly starves to death.

Typically plastic bags are used for only 20 minutes before being thrown out; but they will each take up to 1,000 years to rot away. During their long decay millions of bags litter and pollute our streets, the desert, and are blown out to sea where they become a toxic plastic soup that threatens the existence of marine and wild life.

The Red Sea campaign follows many high profile campaigns in Europe to limit this most damaging form of pollution. The government in Ireland introduced a bag tax, which led to a 90 per cent reduction after its introduction in 2002. In 2007, the biggest supermarkets in France imposed a ban on free carriers. They now charge between 2p and 42p for reusable bags. This has removed millions of free bags from high streets and the French government will impose an outright ban in 2010.

Environmental group is working alongside the Governorate to suggest practical solutions and alternatives for plastic bags. As part of the campaign in support of this decree they will also be undertaking education initiatives and lobbying activities.

Further Reading: HEPCA

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