Costa Rica is set to be the first country in the world to entirely eliminate all single use plastics. This ban applies to a wide variety of items including plastic bags, water bottles, plastic forks, lids and coffee stirrers. The government aims to reach this goal by 2021.
Plastic waste is one of the gravest environmental problems we are facing. It is estimated that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the world's oceans than fish. In Costa Rica 4,000 tonnes of plastic waste is produced daily, 20% of which ends up in rivers, beaches and forests.
8.8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in the world's oceans every year-most of which is made up of single use plastics. By eliminating the use of such plastics, the pollution of the natural environment will greatly reduce. This will also reduce the amount of pressure on landfill sites and recycling centres. The Costa Rican government's plan is to replace these plastics with 'biodegradable or water-soluble alternatives or products made from renewable materials.'
Costa Rica is a global leader in sustainable practices. The country's electricity is frequently produced 100% by renewables and the government has a stated aim of the whole country becoming carbon neutral by 2021. Its attack on plastic is just another part of its strategy to minimise the human impacts on the natural environment.
Costa Rica's plastic ban could provide a template for other small countries to follow as such a drastic move would be difficult to implement in larger nations. Many countries including France, Italy and Kenya have banned the production and sale of single use plastic bags. However an all-encompassing ban of single use plastics has only been done on a smaller scale such as in the city of Delhi in India.