Costa Rica Plans to Eliminate Single Use Plastics. Why can’t the U.S.?

Day 148 – Costa Rica hopes to be the first country to eliminate single use plastics. In 2020, President Carlos Alvarado Quesada announced the ambitious plan at his inauguration. He wants to achieve this goal this year, 2021. It does seem like an impossible achievement, but Costa Rica has proven time and time again that they are committed to finding ways to protect and preserve their country. Costa Rica has been an example to the world by reversing deforestation and doubling its forest cover from 26% in 1984 to more than 52% in 2020. They also get almost 99% of their energy from renewable sources. The country uses resources like rivers, volcanos, geothermal, solar, and wind power to make energy.

The plan to eliminate single use plastics consists of 5 strategic axes:

  1. Municipal incentives
  2. Policies and institutional guidelines for suppliers
  3. Replacement of single-use plastic products
  4. Research and development
  5. Investment in strategic initiatives

In June of last year, the country officially launched its national strategy to replace the consumption of single use plastics for renewable and water-soluble alternatives. All single-use items must be recyclable or biodegradable. Petroleum based single-use items will not be allowed in Costa Rica.

So, why wouldn’t this work in the U.S.?

In an article published by NPR on May 18, 2021, a report by Australia’s Minderoo Foundation is discussed. The report offers one of the fullest accountings, to date, of the companies behind the production of single-use plastics. The study identifies 20 companies as the source of 55% of the world’s single-use plastic waste, while the top 100 companies account for more than 90%.

“At the top of what the foundation calls its “Plastic Waste Makers Index” is the energy giant Exxon Mobil, followed by the Dow Chemical Co. and China’s Sinopec. The report found that Exxon Mobil was responsible for 5.9 million metric tons of such waste in 2019, while Dow and Sinopec contributed 5.6 million and 5.3 million, respectively. Taken together, the three companies account for 16% of all waste from single-use plastics such as bottles, bags and food packaging, according to the report.”NPR

Big business and big money is preventing the U.S. from making any headway in the fight to eliminate single use plastics.

“The report also traced the money invested in the production of single-use plastics, finding that 20 institutional asset managers hold shares worth close to $300 billion in the parent companies that make up the foundation’s rankings. The top three investors are U.S.-based Vanguard Group, BlackRock and Capital Group, which according to the report have an estimated $6 billion invested in the production of single-use plastics.” – NPR

Until, the U.S. can get everyone on board (government, industry, and consumers), we will never be able to accomplish what Costa Rica plans to do and will most likely be successful in doing, saying goodbye to single-use plastics forever.

Tomorrow, celebrating National Learn About Composting Day.

Eliminate Single Use Plastics and Help Save the Whales

Day 52 – Today is World Whale Day! I have loved whales since I was kid. I wanted to be a marine biologist and study whales and dolphins. I even went out to San Diego for college to follow my dream. I soon realized that this non-swimming, midwesterner was not cut out for a life at sea. However, I never stopped loving those ocean mammals and all their wondrous splendor.

So, on this World Whale Day, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the need to reduce and ideally stop the use of single use plastics. I have spoken in previous posts about the dangers that plastic pose to our ocean and waterways. We have all seen the pictures of deceased animals with an alarming amount of plastic in their stomachs. If you haven’t seen these pictures, than you are ignoring a serious problem.

In a National Geographic article published back in March of 2019, the death of a young whale with 88 pounds of plastic in its stomach was shared.

“The curvier beaked whale, a young male about 15 feet long and weighing 1,100 pounds, likely died of starvation and dehydration brought on by the plastic stuffing its belly. Whales absorb water from the food they eat, and there was no sign that any food had made it into its intestines for many days. Its body was destroying itself from the inside: Its stomach acid, unable to break down the plastic waste, had worn holes through its stomach lining instead.”

As the plastic pollution crisis grows, more and more dolphins, whales, birds, and fish are found dead with their stomachs full of plastic. In 2015, scientists estimated that around 90 percent of all seabirds have ingested some amount of plastic; UNESCO estimates that 100,000 marine mammals die because of plastic pollution each year.

So, what can we do?

Thankfully, there are organizations that are trying to educate the public about single use plastics and the need to eliminate them from our everyday life. OPA (Organizing for Plastics Alternatives) is one of those organizations. They are a Chicago-based activist group that is concerned with the ever-growing reliance on single-use plastics. OPA members are working to change attitudes, business practices, and public policies. Their shared vision is to live in a world with less plastic. They are a great resource for those wanting to live a life without plastic.

There is nothing easy about eliminating plastic from our everyday life. It is everywhere! However, it is reassuring to know that there are people out there that want to help us on our journey and provides important information to guide us.

So, let’s try to find alternatives to our single use plastics. The whales will thank us!

Tomorrow, my 1% for the Planet contributions.