Minister of the Environment Marcelo Mata said Wednesday that he plans to move quickly to eliminate single-use plastics in Ecuador. “We have established a three-month deadline to reach agreements with the plastic industry, businesses and consumers with the intent of removing most single-use plastics from use in our country.”
Mata acknowledged that the government’s plan will require a “major cultural change” in the habits of consumers but said the move is necessary for protecting the environment. He said his office is already developing regulatory procedures to enforce the new rules.
Although there is legislation pending in the National Assembly to put greater restrictions on the use of plastics, Mata’s announcement appears prompted by Ecuador’s recent admission into the Pacific Alliance trade group. The alliance, which is currently composed of Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Peru, has adopted a policy that member nations must eliminate most non-reusable plastics by 2021.
In statement on his Twitter account, President Lenin Moreno said he supports the alliance’s plastics program. “The Alliance of the Pacific has stated the objective for the elimination of single-use plastics and Ecuador fully supports it and will work to meet it.”
In a press release, Ecuador’s Chamber of Industries expressed shock at the government’s announcement. “We were completely unaware of this change and are concerned that it was determined without understanding the economic consequences. Tens of thousands of Ecuadorians are employed in plastic manufacturing industries and thousands of businesses depend on the products they produce.”
The press release questioned the length of time it will take for bottling companies to convert to returnable glass containers. “This will require major industrial changes not to mention large amounts of capital to install new facilities and systems.”
The environmental ministry said it is compiling a list of plastic products affected by the government’s decision but did not say when it will be released. A ministry spokeswoman said that plastic drink bottles, bags, food containers, utensils and foam containers will be on the list.