Mexico City Officially Bans Single-Use Plastics

Following a citywide ban on plastic bags that took effect last January, Mexico’s capital has broadened restrictions on other types of single-use plastic items including cutlery, straws, cups, and balloons.

Mexico City Officially Bans Single-Use Plastics

Mexico City voted to ban plastic bags from the capital’s shops starting last January, with a broadened restriction on other types of single-use plastics effective January 1, 2021.

Photo by AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

A broad ban on single-use containers, forks, straws, and other ubiquitous items takes effect in Mexico’s capital, one of the world’s largest cities, after more than a year of preparation.

On January 1, Mexico City’s environmental secretary said via Twitter that “from today on Mexico City [is] without single-use plastics.” The message urged people to think of always carrying reusable containers—like never leaving home without their cell phones.

Mexico City lawmakers passed the ban on plastic bags, utensils, and other disposable plastic items in 2019. The city of 9 million people has spent the past year adjusting, or in some cases ignoring, the impending law change. The ban on plastic bags took effect last year.


Biodegradable plastic bags, in compliance with a 2020 plastic bag ban, hang at a taco stand in central Mexico City.

Photo by AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Light, allegedly biodegradable bags have become more common at the city’s street food stalls. Plastic straws are offered less often. Fresh tortillas are handed over wrapped in paper or cloths that buyers bring with them. But without the imposition of fines, the change will likely be slow in coming.

On New Year’s Day, a woman selling tamales under a large umbrella at the corner of a busy Mexico City avenue slid two into a plastic bag and offered two small colorful plastic spoons from a cup filled with them. Asked if she was aware of the ban taking effect she said she was, “but with the coronavirus, they (authorities) forgot about it.”

Mexico City is currently under red alert as its hospitals’ COVID-19 beds hover near capacity.


The few street food vendors out working on New Year’s Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic said they were either unaware of or were still figuring out how to comply with Mexico City’s broad ban on single-use plastic items.

Photo by AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

The woman, who declined to give her name because she didn’t want to be singled out for enforcement, said it wasn’t just her. She said vendors and market stalls were still using plastic all over the city. She asked how she was supposed to give customers steaming hot tamales without a plastic bag.

The ban also covers disposable plastic cups, plastic stirrers, single-use coffee capsules, and balloons among other items.

In 2019, Mexico City produced about 13,000 tons of garbage per day, according to the capital’s environmental agency.

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