National law puts new tax on plastic bags but local ordinance aims for a total ban

Dec 21, 2019 | 11 comments

Beginning in January, Ecuadorians will pay for the convenience of using plastic shopping bags. The new tax will be progressive, starting at four cents per bag in 2020, increasing to 10 cents in 2023.

Plastic garbage collected in May on a beach in Santa Elena Province.

The tax was included in the Tax Simplification Law enacted earlier in the month by the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, the Azuay Provincial Council has enacted an ordinance that amounts to a total ban on single-use plastic bags by the end of 2020.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, every Ecuadorian uses 130 plastic bags a year, which amounts to more than two billion nationwide. The ministry says that the majority of the bags end up in garbage landfills but hundreds of millions are not properly discarded and go into rivers, streams and the Pacific Ocean. It adds that only a fraction of the bags are recycled and that many of those that are are not suitable for recycle.

In Azuay province, the new Environmental Public Policy Project Ordinance against single-use plastic bags passed unanimously earlier this week. The ordinance requires that the use of plastic bags be reduced by 50 percent by the end of June, 80 percent by the end of September and be banned entirely by the beginning of 2021. The reduction schedule also applies to styrofoam containers.

“We are drowning in plastic and believe this ordinance was born out of necessity for responsible stewardship of our environment,” says Marcelo Quizhpe, Azuay Province director of environmental management. “Reduction and elimination of this toxic waste is critical not just for human health but for the health of plants and animals as well.”

Both the national and provincial laws exempt reuseable plastic bags and garbage bags from the tax and ban.

Manufacturers of plastic products plan a court challenge of both the national and provincial legislation. Two organizations of retailers say they are studying the impact of the action and say they may join the suit.


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