Bill to reduce plastic bags approved

A bill that calls for the “reasonable use of plastic bags” and to “eliminate the current abuse” of plastic in Panama, has been approved. Politican, Acan-Efe Samir Gozaine from the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) proposed the bill that was approved in April.

"We have to understand that the plastic is not biodegradable and that the bags take 450 years to disappear. Nowadays, 20% of the plastic that is collected in Panama are bags, "explains Deputy Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) Acan-Efe Samir Gozaine.

"We would be the first Central American country to have a law like this that is already in force in Europe and in some Latin American countries like Colombia.

The changes are difficult but it is a matter of getting used to it ", assures the politician.

The goal of the project is to replace plastic bags with less polluting alternatives such as biodegradable, carton, fabric or wire cartridges, so that plastic consumption is reduced by up to 20% in Panama.

"Biodegradable plastic bags take only 25 or 30 years to decompose," says Gozaine, who is convinced that the initiative will eventually go ahead even though there are now some deputies against it.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and small stores would have twelve months to adapt to the new regulations, while warehouses and wholesale stores would have 24 months, and everyone would have the option of charging consumers the new biodegradable bags, according to the text Approved in the first parliamentary debate.

The Authority for Consumer Protection and Defense of Competition would be the institution in charge of ensuring compliance with the rule and the funds collected for fines would go to recycling programs. "When we become aware that plastic is a global problem, we will try to ban other products like bottles," the deputy announces. According to the Association for the Conservation of Nature (ANCON), Panama, with its almost 4 million inhabitants, is the country that generates the most per capita waste in Latin America, about 1.2 kg of garbage a day per person, the great Most of which are plastics.

Companies in Panama reducing the use of plastic bags:

- Riba Smith's "One less plastic day" campaign consists of not providing customers with plastic bags for one day a month, between April and October. Since 2013, when it started, they have dedicated about 30 days without plastic bags, during which time 14 tons of plastic  bags were prevented from being distributed, according to Denisse Loayza de Jaén, Manager of Environmental Management at

 -  Rey launched its Green Box  in 2014, for people who use reusable bags and thus reduce the consumption of plastic bags, according to information provided by Grupo Rey.

- McDonald's restaurants have used paper bags instead of plastic to pack their products for 18 years, and on average use more than 1 million bags a month nationwide, more than 12 million bags a year, Informs Martha Arango, Corporate Communications Manager of Arcos Dorados Panamá and Costa Rica, operators of the McDonald's franchise.

- PriceSmart storeseliminated plastic bags from their branches in 2009, said José Luis Marín, Senior Vice President of Marketing at PriceSmart.