The Central American nation of Costa Rica has announced its intention to become the world’s first country to ban single-use plastics. The ban, to take effect in 2021, would include everything from beverage bottles and plastic grocery bags to plastic razors and McDonald’s salad forks.
The ban’s backers, including nonprofit groups and civic and business leaders as well as the Costa Rican government, are whipping up a national campaign to meet the goal. They understand that the country won’t meet the target without infusing everyone from children to CEOs with a win-the-war mentality. Research on alternatives is under way; plans are being laid to work with suppliers and retailers, and strategic initiatives are in development. Individuals are being asked to log details about their plastic substitutes on a website to inspire others.
TRENDPOST: Costa Rica’s plan is noble, but faces long odds. The US alone uses a billion throwaway plastic bags each year; less than 1 percent are recycled. Even in this Latin American nation of 5 million, relying on disposable plastic is a way of life. An outright ban is likely to fail.
A more realistic goal might be to replace petroleum-based plastics with biodegradable versions (Trends Journal, Summer 2017). While life without plastics might be unimaginable, plastics made without carbon are ready and waiting. A British start-up has devised an edible water bottle; plastic work-alikes are being made from corn, tapioca, vegetable oils and even chitosan, a compound in seafood shells that can be turned into a polymer, the basic molecule in plastics.