Goodbye Single-Use Plastic! These are the rules for straws, bags, and bottles - Expat Community

Goodbye Single-Use Plastic! These are the rules for straws, bags, and bottles

Apr 19, 2024 | Costa Rica, News & Articles | 0 comments

By Irene Rodríguez

The Ministry of Health clarified the conditions under which the Law applies to combat plastic pollution and protect the environment, as well as its exceptions.

On April 20th, the regulations for the Law to Combat Plastic Pollution and Protect the Environment (Law 9786) come into effect, limiting the use of single-use plastics such as bottles, straws, and bags. The legislation was approved at the end of 2019 but lacked regulations to enable its implementation.

Finally, the regulations have been approved and will come into effect at different times over the next few months.

Single-use plastics were already prohibited in national parks and protected areas since 2020, but now the measure is being extended. The Ministry of Health specified how and when the new provisions will be applied.

Plastic Straws
Those attached to containers or boxes (such as in juices) should no longer circulate in the country. Those that are not attached must be removed from the market starting August 20, 2024.

The only exceptions are the use of straws in special medication regimes or public health emergencies.

Plastic Bags
The commercialization and free delivery of plastic bags to consumers in supermarkets and commercial establishments intended to carry goods to their final destination are prohibited. The aim is to promote the use of cloth bags or other reusable materials.

However, Health analyzed the health and environmental risks and determined that plastic bags for meat and vegetables (used for weighing and intermediate carrying to payment counters) serve a necessary function, so they are exempt from the law and its regulations.

Businesses or manufacturers wishing to use single-use plastic bags must demonstrate compliance with physical characteristics such as dimensions, thickness, and percentage of recycled material, or biodegradability of the products they intend to exempt from the prohibition.

At the moment, there is no technical regulation establishing the inspection of these bags and the corresponding infractions. Its approval is in process.

Plastic Bottles
Starting in August, importers, producers, marketers, and distributors of single-use plastic bottles must meet at least one of these requirements:

Implement a recovery or recycling program.
Participate in comprehensive waste management programs.
Establish alliances with municipalities.
The requirements for product characteristics will come into force as indicated by future technical regulations to be published.

Bottles with agricultural inputs are excluded from the provisions.

Infractions for improper use of plastics

In case of infractions, the Ministry of Health will refer the respective municipality the technical reports that evidence non-compliance.

Health is working with an intersectoral technical team composed of two committees to publish the corresponding technical regulations during 2024.

Additionally, discussions have already begun with national laboratories and other members of the National Quality System to comply with international technical procedures and regulations.

Why eliminate single-use plastic?
Plastic is one of the most polluting materials for the environment, and if used only once, the impacts can be greater, as more products of this material will be used.

According to the United Nations (UN), more than eight million tons of plastic end up in the oceans with serious consequences for marine flora and fauna, as well as for fishing and tourism, which are the main economic drivers of Costa Rican coasts.

Previously, Costa Rica banned the use of polystyrene. The law was signed in 2019, but its regulation came into effect in 2021.


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