Chile's new law banning single-use straws, chopsticks, and plastic cutlery in food vending establishments, as well as plastic bottles in supermarkets, has entered into force since Sunday and will gradually increase its environmentally-friendly mandate in the coming years.
The measure aims at curbing the use of 23 thousand tons of these items annually. Among the changes introduced for the first stage, supermarkets will have to offer a returnable bottling alternative for beverages, while chopsticks and plastic cutlery are banned.
Effective also as from this week is the ban on single-use expanded polystyrene products, such as containers or cups.
“The implementation of this law, one of the most ambitious in the world to combat pollution due to the indiscriminate use of plastics, is a milestone in the care and protection of the environment in Chile, Environment Minister Marcelo Fernández said.
Regulations will tighten by August 2023, when returnable bottles will also become mandatory in warehouses and other stores. By August 2024, no food establishment will be able to handle products which are not reusable.
Fernández explained the new law will help reduce over 23,000 tons of single-use plastic generated annually in Chile. The use of single-use products made of polystyrene, such as containers, was also prohibited.
Also starting in 2024, home delivery services may use only plastic utensils and containers made of reusable materials.
The Environment Ministry also explained all disposable plastic beverage bottles sold in Chile will have to be made with a percentage of recycled plastic.
Plastic is destroying our lives, they are endocrine disruptors that pretend to be a hormone and cause false stimuli that produce various alterations and cancers, Senator Guido Girardi, who chairs the Upper House's Future Challenges Committee, told reporters.
It also decreases the fertility of all living beings and of humans. Millions of tons, gigantic quantities that become true islands are falling into the sea and it is a planetary challenge because they are made from fossil fuels, that is, they contaminate twice as much, he added.
Disposable containers will have an increasing component of recycled plastics, which must be certified. By 2025, it will be of 15% while it needs to reach 70% by 2060.
Oceana Chile Executive Director Liesbeth van der Meer stressed that 75% of the waste that reaches the sea is single-use plastic, which can be completely replaced. This law is gradual so that businesses have time to adapt, but as of Sunday [some items such as light bulbs [,] plates and chopsticks (...) and the plumavit will be completely excluded,” she said.
In Chile more than 3.4 billion plastic bags are used annually, which is tantamount to 200 per person, according to the Association of Plastic Industries, while 90% of this waste ends up in the garbage and in the seas.
Millions of birds die each year from ingesting plastic and some animals such as turtles do not distinguish between a plastic bag and a jellyfish, so this material became part of their food chain. Some of this plastic is even consumed by humans through salt.