Plastic Straws, Environment

Reps. Joel Franqui Atiles and José "Che" Pérez Cordero, of the New Progressive Party, submitted once again a bill that seeks to ban the sale and use of single-use plastics in all authorized commercial, sales and distribution establishments.

Franqui Atiles recalled that the measure was approved last four years in the Chamber and passed to the Senate for the corresponding process.

On this occasion, he said that they presented House Bill 668, which contemplates a transition term to comply with the provisions of this law and has an orientation procedure for such purposes. The statute also establishes fines of $250, $500 and $1,000 for noncompliance with the provisions included.

"The measure establishes as public policy the prohibition of single-use plastics in our territorial limits. The use of plastics that can be used more than once will not be limited. There are already substitute products on the market, such as compostable ones and they have a similar cost," Franqui Atiles explained.

He added that, "although we have seen that some businesses are already using substitute products, a ban on plastics must be established by law in Puerto Rico."

Legislators reiterated that plastic carries a high environmental impact. As established in the measure, the global recycling rate of this material is only 14 percent, which means that the remaining 86 percent goes to landfills and the oceans.

Multiple countries worldwide have already taken similar measures. The European Union adopted a legislation to ban plastics starting on 2022. Several Caribbean islands are also banning these materials.

"In Puerto Rico, strong decisions must be made in that direction. Given the contamination and proliferation of plastics on our beaches and bodies of water, as well as the advance of the effects of climate change, it is imperative to act quickly and responsibly," Franqui Atiles argued.

Single-use plastic items include cutlery, plates and straws, as well as cups and food containers made of expanded polystyrene.

"We have to insert ourselves in the correct course of environmental conservation and the protection of our resources that are being affected by the contamination of waste from this material. We must raise awareness about the effect of plastic in our environment and the serious consequences that this entails," Pérez Cordero stated.

The bill provides that, if there is no substitute on the market, such as compostable products, the prohibition established will not apply.

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