What Does it Mean for a Canton to Declare Itself Plastic-Free?

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Who said that Guanacaste can’t set a trend for all of Costa RIca? That’s how lawmaker Rodolfo  Peña of the social christian unity party announced his bill for making 11 city councils in the province free of straws and plastic bags.

At the close of this edition (January 29, 2019), Santa Cruz and Liberia were the two cantons that had taken on the legislator’s request.

Marcelo Solano, director of the national union of local governments, explained that these types of declarations reflect the political position of the local government, but that they can’t be understood as actions that require the city to budget money to promote the bill or change their development plans.

That doesn’t mean the declarations aren’t important. They keep a discussion open in many cases that is necessary for bit issues that citizens worry about,” Solano said.

Most of these initiatives don’t go beyond the declaration. They aren’t accompanied by concrete actions.

Julio Viales, mayor of Liberia, said “we can’t require businesses to stop using straws or plastic bags. We can’t act in a repressive manner against them because there is no law that allows us to do so.”

In Congress, a bill is being discussed to eliminate single-use plastic nationwide, but lawmakers don’t have a date for its approval.  

According to Viales, in the white city the local government, along with other citizens, formed a team to visit each business and incentivize them to stop using straws, tops, bags and other plastic utensils.

The city doesn’t forecast in the short or medium term changing its legislation to disincentivize the use of plastic in local businesses, something that cities are able to do.

For example, according to news site, the Osa canton in Puntarenas is evaluating reforms to patent rules that would force businesses to reduce the use of plastic.

Osa declared itself free of single use plastic in May 2018.  

Nicoya’s city council is awaiting the opinion of its legal advisor. They asked him to analyze whether or not the declaration could violate Costa Rican law.

But representatives support the bill, which is pending a vote in congress.

Other initiatives like Guanacaste Without Plastic from The Voice of Guanacaste, and Goodbye Plastic led by MarViva have also encouraged restaurants, cafes and other businesses to stop using this material.

A large part of the plastic we consume reaches the oceans and not only pollutes them, it puts the life of marine species at risk.


* Noelia Esquivel Solano contributed to this report