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The use of single-use plastics is prohibited in protected areas of Ecuador.  The Plastics Law in force since 2020 remains to be socialized

The use of single-use plastics is prohibited in protected areas of Ecuador. The Plastics Law in force since 2020 remains to be socialized

The Rationalization, Reuse and Reduction of Single Use Plastics Law or also known as the Plastics Law was an achievement that was culminated thanks to the efforts of civil society.

The pandemic increased the demand for single-use plastic and for a while stalled the fight against plastic waste around the world. It is worth remembering that a significant portion of this waste ends up in landfills and millions of tons of plastic end up in the ocean.

“Both colleges, schools, civilians and the Círculo Verde and Mingas por el mar foundations pressured the National Assembly, through letters sent in 2018, to review the draft. That law has already been in force since 2020. I even went to the Assembly to present data on behalf of the Mingas por el Mar foundation, which is the only one that is currently cleaning beaches, rivers, mangroves, and lagoons all year round. Those data were very clear: 85% of the contamination of natural areas is by disposable plastics. Hence the urgency to regulate these spaces”, says Cecilia Torres, director of the aforementioned foundation.

99% of the waste collected in the Galapagos comes from Latin America and Asia, says the Minister of Environment

This law is a breakthrough in environmental protection. According to Torres, a fairly good product was achieved. “But not as we would have expected because there are some confusing technical issues. For example, he says that it allows you to sell a plastic item if it has a certain amount of recyclable material. But where is that same tub going to end up? Well, to the same beach, river or open-air dumps”.

Cecilia Torres, activist and director of Mingas por el mar.

Not all plastic is reusable. “It depends on the plastic. If it is a PET bottle (100% recyclable plastic), we know that in Ecuador this type of container is recycled very well, it did not travel across the ocean but someone threw it away, it is intact, they accept it without problems in a collection center . But the tub that a tourist used to eat and the boot, that is not good for recycling. The recycling process is very delicate, very fragile because resins cannot be mixed, even less if that tub has fat, for example. You say ‘I recycle’, but have you ever wondered how much of what you are delivering is actually going to be recycled? It is said that since plastic began to be used, only 10% has been able to be recycled”, Torres stands out.

What we want to make clear is that not all the plastic used is biodegradable and from there comes the responsibility of using less and less of this polluting waste.

As a foundation, says the expert, they focused on what is causing the most problems, what is contaminating natural areas and what cannot be recycled. That is, disposable plastics or single-use plastics. “The law says that we must try to get Ecuador to reduce the use of this type of plastic. Obviously this is very difficult to achieve from one day to the next, but the current law and that includes some prohibitions a year ago there is one that we want to focus on, which is that in all protected natural areas of Ecuador The marketing and use of food products in single-use plastic containers are strictly prohibited.

Tiwi Nunka protected area, in Zamora Chinchipe, is a victory for the Shuar people in their struggle to conserve water, flora and fauna

One of the products that is widely used to carry food are foam containers, a material that takes many years to degrade. Some think that burning it solves the problem, but not because putting it on fire produces very toxic and polluting residues, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrogen cyanide. “Foam foam is the same plastic (polystyrene), but it has an additive to make it spongy, which means it has more chemicals than other types of plastic. What happens when I put, for example, a hot soup in a polystyrene container and then I eat that soup, what chemical exchanges can there be in the food that I am eating? The same goes for the little coffee that they serve me in one of those containers. I mean, what I’m eating is contaminated. There is a study that shows that cancer, infertility and other diseases are linked to the consumption of certain foods that are served in these plastics”.

Today more than ever, this current law becomes more important thanks to the fact that, as of December 2021, the use of plastics in protected areas of Ecuador. Among the highlights are the following:

Single-use plastic waste is an environmental threat to all natural spaces around the world. Photo: Shutterstock
  • The use of disposable plastic tableware and utensils for food consumption in catering establishments is prohibited.
  • Within this same period, the use of single-use plastic bags or wrappers for the delivery of printed advertising is prohibited, as well as billing receipts for public or private services, account statements and all information addressed to consumers in general.
  • According to this law, as of this date, the manufacture and import for internal consumption, distribution, commercialization, delivery and use of single-use plastic straws is prohibited.

In force Organic Law for the rationalization, reuse and reduction of single-use plastics

  • An important point to mention about the law is the obligation established for distributors or manufacturers to start labeling warning consumers of the negative impact on the environment of not correctly disposing of products with plastic components such as wet wipes, sanitary napkins, balloons; disposable products such as lighters, supplies for printers, among others.
  • In the case of places of sale of goods or products, as in the case of home orders, the free delivery of single-use plastic bags, containers, tableware, utensils and other objects is prohibited. These establishments must charge an amount not less than the unit cost of the single-use plastic item that they provide to the consumer. And they must consult the consumer if they wish to receive these plastic items and inform their value before delivering them.
Volunteers from Mingas por el Mar collect between 10 and 50 sacks at each meeting. Photo: Mingas by the Sea.

More than ten tons of waste was collected by Mingas by the Sea on the beaches of Ecuador during 2019

Information is missing

But this has not been socialized. There are even many businesses within the same parks and ecological reserves that continue to use disposable plastics such as tubs, covers, glasses, containers, spoons, knives, forks and straws. “All of this is a reflection of how we consume food and drink. And they are not only in protected areas. If there is poor waste management in a town, it ends up in the rivers and, in turn, in the ocean. Imagine that these can reach areas further from the coast such as islands that, in the case of the Galapagos or Puná, already have beaches contaminated with single-use plastics. There are certain organisms that get stuck in that plastic and travel across the ocean to a beach. Then we found out that there is an invasive species that is destroying the natural habitat of those or other islands”, Torres stands out.

The law already exists, but when it comes into force, especially in protected areas, the issue becomes an opportunity to educate people. “Recently I was in the Lobería in Salinas (viewpoint located in the province of Santa Elena), which is a protected area, and I saw a person with a coconut and a straw. I asked him: excuse me, where did you buy that coconut, he told me ‘in that store’. I told him, sir, you know that there is a law that prohibits the use of disposable materials, he replied that he did not have the slightest idea, ”says Torres.

Great goal in the reactivation of tourism: cleaner beaches!

Cecilia wonders “why the authorities are not acting with a law that took a lot of effort to get out”.

Not all plastic is reusable. Photo: Shutterstock

This month was celebrated worldwide, the International Day of the Beaches, on September 21. An opportunity for people, the community and the authorities to come together to protect the beaches and raise awareness about the misuse of single-use plastics.

To give you an idea, when this community work is carried out, the volunteers of Mingas por el Mar they collect between 10 and 50 bags of waste on the beaches. This foundation currently has more than 20 active groups (Coast, Sierra and Galapagos), more than 300 mingas and more than 300 volunteers.

“Contamination in natural areas is due to plastic materials, which also includes ropes and fishing nets that are other pollutants, but we are already working with fishermen through a circular economy with the use of this material. It is assumed that another regulation will come out on this issue”.

If you want to collaborate in the mingas, want to know more about single-use waste or want to report any environmental attack, you can enter https://www.mingasporelmar.org/, there is no cost. There you can see the calendar of dates and the places where the mingas are held on different beaches in the country.

Source: Eluniverso

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