Bocas News

Bocas said NO to Plastic Bags!

Bocas said NO to Plastic Bags!

May 27, 2017

March 24, 2017 will be a historic date for Bocas del Toro, Panama and her natural beauty. At last a dream has been achieved, NO MORE PLASTIC BAGS IN BOCAS!

Recently a very important decree was passed that eliminated the use of plastic bags in the establishments of the entire archipelago. All of us at think it is a great achievement for the community and a giant step on the national level, with Bocas being the pioneers in Panama with an initiative like this. Therefore, we want to make an appeal so that everybody becomes aware of the importance of eliminating plastic and what this will mean for the islands.

The decree was approved on March 24, 2017, and the establishments have 12 months to comply with the new rule. Once the norm is implemented, there will be another three month extension for each business to adapt and after that the business that do not comply will be fined.  However, it is in our hands to make this initiative start now, it is as easy as rejecting the bags that the stores use and take one of your own every time you make a purchase.

It has taken several years and many people had to become involved to get to where we are today to ensure that measures are taken by the municipality for the protection, care and cleaning of Bocas. Organizations such as Sea Turtle Conservancy, ProMar Foundation, the Environmental Committee, and members of the municipality were working on finding solutions and improving issues including the subject of garbage. This decree opens a new cycle for all who live here. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, and that is why we invite everyone to inform themselves and try to be part of the solution that benefits us all.

There are still many questions such as “What are we going to use in the stores for our purchases?” What will we use to throw away the trash? Who will be responsible for compliance with this standard? What can we do as citizens to help make this initiative a success? Since Bocas is not the first place to put this initiative into place, therefore, we can follow the lead of other places in the world who have managed this situation and find what might be the most convenient way for our beautiful islands. Bali (Indonesia), Ethiopia, and Kenya are just some of the places that have already implemented this standard. In the case of Bali, for example, ecological bags are being used, these dissolve quickly in water, which you can even drink later and do not leave any toxic waste. Kevin Kumala, founder of the company that manufactures the biodegradable bags said “I’m a diver and surfer, and I’m out there watching how all this plastic pollution grows in front of my eyes, so it’s just something I had to do.”

The problem with plastic is worldwide, and this is just one example of the thousands of solutions that can be carried out to replace this material with others that do not harm the planet. However, we must seek solutions that are possible locally with the resources that are available on our island chain. There are already some establishments in Isla Colon have implemented this initiative of their own free will. Bocas del Toro Surfshop started with this initiative a few years ago. Indi Surf House and Super Gourmet also have gone a longtime without using plastic bags, and are a good example for other businesses to see that this project is in fact feasible and start doing the same. In addition, Hawaii supermarket recently started selling fabric bags so people can buy them to carry home their groceries. All this, in conjunction with the municipality communicating the new order and creating awareness will make this achievement become a reality in a short period of time.

A fundamental part of the process will be the work done with the community; in schools, and other public entities. In this sense, Georgina Zamora, of Sea Turtle Conservancy, has been working for a long time, putting into practice different projects of awareness based on the subject of reduction of plastics and conservation of the environment. She is one of the people who has been fundamental in the implementation of this initiative, and continues to work every day to make Bocas a place that is in total harmony with nature. “We humans have become very comfortable, wanting everything to be easy and fast, and that goes against the natural cycles. Removing plastic bags is something simple and effective that we owe the planet, “concludes Georgina.

It is important that each person who lives here be aware of the importance of this new order. If we all work and help it succeed, we will have taken an important step on the long road to a plastics-free world. Looking closer, we will be making Bocas del Toro a more beautiful place, and an example for the rest of the world showing that as a community working together everyone can achieve wonderful things that will benefit thousands of people, and most importantly, we will have helped our environment to remain healthy.

This is a mission that can only work if all of us are involved, so invites all people to share proposals and suggestions to help this program succeed. REMEMBER TO HONOR YOUR MOTHER EARTH! Let’s be part of the solution and take care of the problems that come from the evil plastic that is killing us all.

Sea Turtle Conservacy: