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Mexico: No plastic, please

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Asel Llana

(Read caption) The days of plastic bags at Mexico’s markets are numbered.

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A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

MEXICO CITY – Poverty has increased, violence rages on, and tourists are scared to visit Mexico. So it might seem the country has enough on its hands than to worry about how grocers pack up produce.

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But last month Mexico City banned the standard plastic bag at supermarkets, joining countries as far away as China and Tanzania and cities as diverse as New Delhi and San Francisco that are part of a growing movement that sets limits, taxes, fines, and even threatens jail time for retailers that refuse to use a biodegradable option. The bags are one of the biggest culprits of litter on ocean floors, according to a June United Nations report.

At a cavernous Soriana supermarket in Mexico City, baggers place products in bags touted as “100 percent biodegradable.” “These bags break easier,” says Susana Montano, a faithful customer. “But it’s better than ruining nature.”

Down the street, the supervisor at a Superama store says they will require customers to buy cloth bags (at about $1 a piece) or pack up in cardboard boxes as soon as their stock of nonbiodegradable bags runs out. “It’s the law,” the supervisor says, shrugging, when asked if he believes customers will complain.