Rabat, Morocco – As a ban on the production and use of plastic bags comes into effect across Morocco on Friday, green campaigners say that the country's consumers may need years to fully comply with the new law.
A landmark bill passed by the Moroccan parliament last October banned the production, import, sale and distribution of plastic bags across the country.
The bill, which became law on July 1, is part of a larger environmentally conscious effort across the North African country to go green.
Morocco ranks alongside Costa Rica, Bhutan and Ethiopia as one of the world’s greenest countries, a fact partially due to its ambitious goals to crackdown on carbon emissions.
Recent sustainability measures have turned the country into a green leader among developing nations, and the city of Marrakesh is due to host a global climate change conference in November 2016.
But as the July 1 deadline approached, shops, street sellers and retailers across the country scrambled to stockpile reserves of reusable bags. The change, they say, will not be easy.
The country’s battle with the plastic bag has been in the works for years. Efforts in 2009 to ban the production and use of black plastic bags, which litter the country’s streets and beaches, were only partially successful, as authorities struggled to curtail informal production of the bags.
Morocco is the second-largest plastic bag consumer after the United States. It uses about three billion plastic bags a year, according to the Moroccan Industry Ministry. That means, on average, that each one of Morocco’s 34 million people uses about 900 bags a year.
A blanket ban on the use of plastic bags will take some getting used to, says Jennie Romer, a New York-based lawyer.
“It's a big cultural shift with that type of broader law,” she said. “As long as the government has the motivation to really enforce that. There is a lot of potential. The government entity that is implementing it has to be completely on board in order to make that really happen in practice.”