8 Latin American Countries Have Come Together To Combat Plastic Pollution

Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama are part of an initiative to protect the oceans from plastic pollution.

plastics on a beach

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: 8 países de Latinoamérica se han unido para combatir la contaminación por plásticos en el mar

"Marine Litter Action Plan for the Northeast Pacific 2022-2026" is the name of this initiative that aims to address the problem of plastic pollution in this region. This is an initiative that was launched on June 8 as part of the global celebration of Oceans Day.

The Plan was created jointly by the authorities of the 8 countries, especially the ministries of the environment, with the advice and support of the United Nations Environment Program UNEP, the Global Alliance on Marine Litter, and the MarViva Foundation.

According to information from the United Nations for the Environment, "Latin America and the Caribbean generates 17,000 tons of plastic waste daily." Likewise, the report of this plan points out that in the region there is poor management of waste: "barely 10% is recycled, and around 145,000 tons are deposited daily in open-air dumps (…) many times they end up in coastal or marine areas. In fact, it states that if this path continues "by the year 2025 more than 1 million tons of plastic would be present in the marine spaces of the Northeast Pacific region."

Also read: Climate Justice: The Financing Of Environmental Projects Affects Latin America

The report outlines the state of marine litter in the region. Likewise, it indicates that there is a problem because there are few management indicators and poor services for waste management. "Nearly 90% of the waste in the region is not recycled and of this, plastic is the one that represents the biggest problem (or the biggest opportunity)," he says. Likewise, the indicators, background, regional regulatory frameworks, gaps and opportunities are presented.

In this regard, the action plan is divided into strategic areas: "partnerships and cooperation; education, training and awareness; monitoring and research; governance and institutionality; infrastructure for comprehensive waste management; control and surveillance; and financing."

Citizens have great power in their hands

Unlike what happens with the emission of carbon gases, for which the main responsible are large companies, in the case of plastic pollution, a large percentage comes from objects used in homes. The report's indicators indicate that 80% of marine litter comes from land-based sources and one of the main sources of this litter is in food and beverage packaging.

For this reason, it is logical that citizens can also make an important contribution, being aware of what they consume and making responsible purchases. Preferring bulk purchases, avoiding drinking beverages in plastic bottles, having multiple-use containers for food, using packaging-free or zero waste implements, and not buying packaged foods are some of the actions that have an impact. In any case, it is necessary to avoid single-use plastics.

For this reason, the MarViva Foundation, and the other actors, place special emphasis on education, awareness, and training measures so a sustainable plan that can be scaled. However, "also, actions aimed at reviewing the federal, national and local legal frameworks are proposed, with the purpose of enacting sufficient legislation to prevent the generation of marine litter."

Are these plans enough?

Although each initiative to curb pollution is good news, the amount of waste generated is so great that these plans must also be aligned with the ban on single-use plastics and the adoption of technologies that mitigate and prevent further contamination. Although international organizations and third-sector organizations monitor and review regulations, it is in the congresses and institutions of each country that guarantees can be obtained to prevent pollution.

In this sense, these regional alliances must be accompanied by real commitments at the level of each country to avoid the generation of waste. The pioneer country in Latin America to ban single-use plastics was Chile. In this regard, Colombia has just taken a big step, as the Senate approved a bill that prohibits single-use plastics. The initiative, if implemented, would prevent the use of 14 types of plastics and it would not be possible to import, commercialize or distribute them. However, the project still has to pass a conciliation phase in Congress and be sanctioned by President Iván Duque. Just like Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina and other countries in the area, congressmen and activists are promoting reforms to eliminate single-use plastics.

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