Last Tuesday, June 5, Costa Rica celebrated the World Environment Day in a very special way. The new president, Carlos Alvarado, made a great decision: He signed a directive to regulate single-use plastic within the public sector.
He established that the public sector, including sodas or restaurants hired and affiliated, must eliminate the use, purchase, and consumption of single-use plastic and thus lean towards compostable products. As an initiative, the government must provide alternative, biodegradable, compostable and renewable materials to replace the plastic ones. In addition, schools and public entities should receive education to know the damage that these materials causes and create consciousness.
Single-use plastic refers to utensils that are used only once or a few minutes and then disposed of improperly and remain in the environment for several years creating more damage than helping in its useful life. Examples of these harmful elements include straws, bags, bottles, disposable covers, cups, among others.
Several initiatives for the protection of the environment and the reduction and good disposal of garbage has increased in recent years. During 2017 the Osa canton, in the South Pacific part of Costa Rica, implemented a similar campaign in which they proposed the detachment of single-use plastic. They began to look for alternative materials and replaced plastic with sugar cane fibers, roots, bamboo, cloth bags, products made of starches; all elements that can be found in the Central Market, San José. In 2018, Costa Rica was also introduced to Ecocolones. An amazing project where recycling gives you immediate benefits. It consists of talking recyclable materials to a designated center and in exchange, you receive virtual money, called Ecolones, that can be spent in certain goods and experiences. It is a new program with the objective to incentive people to recycle which will lead to creating a more sustainable environment and culture.
Single-use plastic grew with society and each time we find a new use for it, but the detachment has to start. Plastic gets accumulated in the coasts of our country, closing mouths of rivers and killing hundreds of animals per year. Turtles get straws stuck in their nostrils and confuse plastic with food, as do dolphins. Animals get trapped in the packaging of beers or suffocate with bags.
Costa Rica has more than 34 national parks and protected areas, but it is up to people to make a change. It is the responsibility of tourists, foreigners, and locals, of families that enjoy a day at the beach or the mountains of clean after themselves.
We must create awareness and a clean culture to take care of our beautiful planet as the famous Leonardo Dicaprio says it ” Clean air, water, and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics, it is a question of our own survival.” We have to address the forces that are threatening our planet. We need to manifest change in the next years.