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“We welcome American Samoa’s leadership in the Pacific islands to ban plastic shopping bags,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This action will decrease the amount of plastic waste in the territory and directly protect marine and bird life in the Pacific.”
American Samoa is not only the first US Territory to ban plastic shopping bags, but one of the first states to enact state or territory wide legislation. Other cities like San Francisco, Portland, coastal North Carolina, and many California cities have bag bans. Santa Monica, San Jose, Berkeley, New York City, Seattle, Boston, Phoenix, Connecticut, and Maryland have proposed bag bans. Other countries that have banned free plastic bags include China, Bangladesh, Australia, Italy, South Africa, Ireland, and Taiwan.
“The landmark move by American Samoa not only helps the local environment, it helps prevent plastic shopping bags from ending up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an enormous area of floating plastic waste,” said Blumenfeld.
The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ refers to two areas of floating plastic waste in the North Pacific that have been identified by NOAA and many other organizations. These areas are located in both the eastern and western Pacific and are composed of marine debris. The main type of garbage in the patch is plastic litter along with other debris such as derelict fishing nets. Much of the debris is very small bits of floating plastic debris broken down through photodegradation, and surveys estimate that there may be as much as six times more plastic than plankton in parts of the garbage patch. The American Samoa action will help protect many species of Pacific marine and bird life, which attempt to consume the plastic debris after mistaking it for food.