Panama Just Became the First Central American Country to Implement a Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags
Flanked by the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Panama is home to some of the most beautiful coastal landscapes in the world-and legislators there have decided to target plastic pollution affecting their pristine beaches and other local ecosystems. Over the weekend, Panama became the first Central American country to implement a ban on single-use plastic bags, according to Reuters reports; officials are pushing retailers across the tropical nation to switch to alternative solutions or face fines for failing to do so.
Unlike other American states and cities where stores have had a grace period to find a solution, those in Panama will have to stop offering traditional polyethylene plastic bags to customers immediately, whereas some wholesale stores will have until 2020.
More than 60 other countries have introduced legislation to institute total or partial bans on single-use plastic bags, including numerous cities inside the U.S., and some nations have also imposed additional taxes on using these products as well, according to Reuters. Across Panama City, the nation's largest metropolitan area, new signs were posted on streets and other public spaces reminding citizens that the ban had gone into effect; "Less bags, more life," the signs read, per Reuters' reports.
Conservationists have long established that plastic pollution in the ocean is a major issue for aquatic wildlife, and Reuters reports that the waters surrounding Central America are some of the most diverse in the world. Plastic build up on beaches along the coast is an issue for Panama and other nearby nations as well. According to a recent report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2016, oceans are expected to hold more plastic pollution than fish by weight-if new policies, like Panama's ban, aren't put into place.