Panama leads with plastic bag legislation

Saturday, July 20 Panama became the first country in Central America to enforce a law prohibiting the use of plastic bags in supermarkets, pharmacies, and retail outlets.

Stores must also provide a reusable bag option to be sold at cost.  Fines will be imposed not only for non-compliance but also if an alternative option is not being offered at cost. Acodeco Panama’s consumer agency explains that these fine will be used to fund education programs that promote recycling and other environmental efforts throughout the country. 

One exception for the use of plastic bags, for sanitary reasons, is the case of packaging raw food. Wholesale stores, are also an exception to the law as they will have until 2020 to implement changes. 

These changes are being celebrated throughout the country with streets signs in Panama City saying “less bags, more life” a friendly reminded that the law is finally in effect.

The law will have a big impact on the cleanliness of communities, as plastic bags are a large source of litter. Moreover it will also benefit, birds, turtles, seals, whales and fish who often become entangled or ingest the remnants of plastic bags. 

This is a great start for Panama on a path towards better environmental policy. Anti-pollution policies are vital to creating change not only in Latin America but world wide.

Our oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish by 2050, according to the New Plastics Economy report published by Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2016.