Panama Becomes First Central American Nation to Ban Plastic Bags

Also mentioned in the report is the devastating prediction that the world’s oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish by 2050.

Over the weekend, Panama voted to ban single-use plastic bags, making it Central America’s first nation to eliminate single-use plastic bags following a dramatic rise in pollution shrouding its shores.

The ban may well be seen as a response to the real-world implications of what the United Nations has described as one of the world’s most challenging environmental issues.

According to a report from Reuters, “supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers in Panama must stop using traditional polyethylene plastic bags immediately, while wholesale stores will have until 2020 to conform to the policy.”

“Fines can be applied for non-compliance but there are exceptions for the use of plastic bags for sanitary reasons, such as with raw food,” the report says.

Panama, while small geographically has around 1,540km of coastline which is being increasingly inundated with plastics. The problem is compounded by long-shore drift from both North and South America which allows plastics from thousands of kilometers away to make a new home on its coastline. The new legislation is Panama’s attempt to eliminate plastic originating from its own population, and making its way to the ocean from inland rivers and streams.

According to the Reuters report, “birds, turtles, seals, whales and fish often become entangled or ingest remnants of plastic bags in Latin America, one of the most biodiverse regions of the world. Along Panama’s coast, it is common to see plastic waste littering beaches, especially near populated areas.”

Victoria Gomez, a 42-year-old secretary was quoted by Reuters saying the new legislation “seems like a good measure because you avoid continuing to pollute the streets and the community.”

The streets of Panama have been lined with slogans supporting the law, “less bags, more life” painted on them acting as a reminder to the general public that the law has gone into effect.

According to Reuters journalist, Elida Moreno, “given projected growth in consumption, without new anti-pollution policies, oceans are expected by 2050 to contain more plastics than fish by weight,” citing a new report from the New Plastics Economy report which was published by the Ellen Macarthur foundation.

The report also outlined that if current production rates are to continue, the plastics industry will consume 20% of total oil production by 2050.

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