Nature and Biodiversity

Costa Rica wants to be the first country to ban all single-use plastics

A member of the diving club "Under The Sea", owned by Samia Balistrou (not pictured), collects plastic bottles and other waste from the sea before a scuba training session in Tipaza, Algeria August 16, 2015. Samia, a dive pioneer in Algeria and Africa, owns a diving club called "Under The Sea" and teaches scuba diving. According to local media, Samia was the first woman in North Africa to be a certified Divemaster, and says she has devoted her life to promote environmental awareness. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra - RTX1OFC1

Costa Rica is taking dramatic action against plastic waste Image: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Rosamond Hutt
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In 2015, a video of marine biologists pulling a plastic straw from the nostril of a sea turtle off the coast of Costa Rica went viral.

The shocking eight-minute video showed the male Olive Ridley turtle bleeding as the scientists struggled to extract the straw. The research team posted their footage online to raise awareness of the harm that plastics cause to marine life.

Image: Christine Figgener

Now Costa Rica is taking dramatic action against plastic waste with plan to ban all single-use plastics by 2021. This includes straws, bottles, cutlery, cups and bags.

The government is offering incentives to businesses, as well as investing in research into alternatives to single-use plastics in order to achieve its goal.

Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic ends up in the oceans, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife. According to one estimate, 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic by 2050, if current trends continue.

Image: UN Environment

A report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in partnership with the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2050 plastic in the ocean could weigh more than fish.

Disposable plastics are used for a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds, but as the chart below shows, they can take hundreds of years to decompose.

Image: Environmental Protection Authority, Victoria

Costa Rica’s green credentials

Some countries and cities have restricted or prohibited the use of plastic bags, and New Delhi has introduced a ban on disposable plastics. However, Costa Rica wants to be the first country to outlaw all single-use plastics.

The move will add to Costa Rica’s green credentials. During 2015 and 2016, the Central American country powered itself on 100% renewable electricity for more than two thirds of the year. It is also a world leader in wildlife protection and aims to be carbon neutral by 2021.

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