Costa Rica Signs Law That Prohibits the Use of Styrofoam
Costa Rica will no longer allow the import or sales of expanded polystyrene – commonly known as Styrofoam in North America. The law prohibiting the packaging was signed and will take effect in 2021.
President Carlos Alvarado signed Law 9703 on Monday, which prohibits the importation, marketing, and delivery of containers, as well as containers, made from expanded polystyrene (stereo).
For this prohibition to take effect, the country will have to wait one year after its publication in the official newspaper La Gaceta, due to a transitory established in the document, to allow the realignment of the productive sectors that would be affected by the measure.
“Within the 12 months mentioned in this article, the State will promote and encourage the productive reconversion of the industries dedicated to the importation and manufacture of containers, containers, or packaging made with expanded polystyrene, promoting the development of more environmentally friendly productive alternatives. environment ”, indicates the text.
The Minister of Environment and Energy (Minae), Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, highlighted the importance of offering this adjustment period for businesses, industry, and users, due to the social and environmental impact that such an action entails.
Likewise, he expressed that the one-year period is more than enough to comply with the provisions of the law.
"12 months is not only going to be enough to make that transition but also for organic options to take their place in the market," he said.
The environmental manager was also optimistic that food retail businesses can quickly adapt to the new limitations and incorporate biodegradable and compostable alternatives, given that many are already on this path.
“Many of these businesses are already moving towards alternative products because they feel that this gives them a competitive and market advantage. On that side, things will happen much faster and I believe that the alternatives will be viable for all those who are working on this issue, "he said.
The government hopes that the measure will contribute to the country's efforts to become a plastic-free Costa Rica by 2021.
(...) but we also want to be a Costa Rica that provides alternatives. That is why this law comes into force 12 months later, time in which as a government we commit ourselves to work towards this transition, "said the Vice Minister of Water and Seas, Haydée Rodríguez.
The idea is that these changes also serve to turn the country into a benchmark for how the productive sector can join "a new paradigm" and incorporate more environmentally friendly alternatives, to the detriment of traditional practices that have a harmful effect on health. of the planet and the people.
Origin of the law
The document introduces into national legislation a series of reforms to the Law for Comprehensive Waste Management, dated June 24, 2010.
These changes were driven by the previous fraction of the Broad Front party and taken up during the current period by the deputy Paola Vega of the Citizen Action Party (PAC), president of the Environment Commission. The law was approved in a second debate on June 13.
The first modification it makes is the addition of an article 42 bis, which in addition to prohibiting stereophone products in any commercial establishment, also raises three specific exceptions: cases in which, for reasons of conservation or protection of the products, no the use of alternative materials is environmentally viable; packaging for household appliances and the like, and industrial uses.
In order to achieve this approach, he adds that "said industries will have the possibility of accessing credit for their development."
Among other measures, transitory XIV orders that within “six months after the publication of this reform, the Ministry of Health must include in the national policy and the National Plan for Comprehensive Waste Management, a national plan to encourage the gradual replacement of expanded polystyrene containers, containers or packaging with others made of different materials ”.
Why is it a problem?
Known as expanded polystyrene (EPS), stereophonic is a type of plastic or polymer formed from styrene, a derivative of petroleum.
It is used to produce various products, from construction materials to food packaging and appliance and equipment packaging.
According to Julián Rojas Vargas, an academic researcher at the National University (UNA), it is considered a problem because it is not a biodegradable product.
It can last in the environment for 500 years and even more. Also, to give it color and texture it requires additives that are polluting. Another element against this material is that when it is subjected to heat it emits toxic fumes.
It is also considered deadly to marine fauna since it contains a high percentage of air, which makes it easily float up and is mistaken for food by marine species. Once inside the animal's body, it causes a floating effect in it so that it cannot be submerged.
However, not everyone shares this negative view. This is the case of Hanno Schwarz, technical manager of the Conceptos company, dedicated to the commercialization of recycled stereo, for various uses, such as insulation sheets in buildings.
“Our recycling effort has been compromised by bad publicity for the stereo,” he said.
The businessman questions that the ban will have a significant effect on the country. Since 2001, it recycles 800 tons per year.
"We consider that it is a lot of publicity against the stereophone and the real effect on plastic pollution in this country will be between minimal and zero, because the same products of other plastic that are not stereophonic are still allowed.
"It is difficult for us to recycle the stereo because when people see that everything is prohibited, they do not even look for possibilities to recycle, so less material reaches us," he said.
According to Schwarz, the company, created in 2001, recycles an average of 800 tons of the material per year, coming from the country's large commercial companies that import products.