Plastic grocery bags will be phased out completely by the end of this year in all supermarkets in São Paulo state, following an agreement reached May 9 between the state's governor and the Paulista Association of Supermarkets, or Apas.
The goal, both sides said, is to drastically reduce the amount of single-use plastic bags that end up in the garbage in Brazil. State government statistics show that about 2.4 billion plastic bags are consumed each month in the state, 90 percent of which are thrown in the trash. A vast majority of Brazilians do get a second use out of their grocery bags as trashcan liners around the home.
The accord was reached on the same day that two related industrial trade shows kicked off in São Paulo the annual BrasilPlast fair, and the international fair for Brazil's supermarket industry, held by Apas.
A new biodegradable plastic bag is expected to be offered at supermarkets in São Paulo next year, when the ban takes effect Jan. 25. Made of corn starch, it will decompose within 180 days in a composting plant, or two years in a landfill, according to Apas. It will be sold to customers at cost, around 0.19 Brazilian reais (US$0.12).
Grocery stores throughout the state will promote the campaign in the coming months to prompt change in consumer habits. Reusable plastic and cloth bags already are sold by most supermarket chains, and many Brazilians already carry backpacks on a daily basis or pull small metal carts to their neighborhood store.