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Proposed tax on plastic bags is Ecuador’s first step to reduce plastic waste

Ecuador may soon take the first step to reduce the use of plastics. The proposed law of economic reform, currently being debated in the National Assembly, would tax single-use plastic bags 10 cents each. In its first phase, the tax would apply to bags used in larger retail stores and not to small businesses.

Volunteers collect plastic waste on a beach in Guayas Province.

“The world is literally drowning in plastic and this is our effort to install controls and reduce its usage,” says Environmental Minister Raúl Ledesma. “The problem is especially severe in the Galapagos and on the mainland coast and we want to reduce the amount of plastic products that enter the ecosystem. A recent United Nations study predicts that at the current rate of consumption, there will be more tons of plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050. To date, 24 countries have banned plastic bags.”

Ledesma cited recent clean-up projects in the Galapalgos Islands and Guayas Province where tons of plastic were removed from beaches and offshore waters.

In 2018, Ecuador and seven other Latin American countries committed to begin a phase-out of many plastic products within 10 years.

Ledesma said the proposed tax was designed to have minimum impact on Ecuador’s poor, many of whom depend on plastic bags in the purchase and sale of produce. “Over time, we will develop alternatives but one of our objectives is to minimize the impact of the new tax on the poor segment of the population.”

Marisol Andrade, Ecuador’s SRI director, says the new tax will raise $22 million in 2020, much of it earmarked for clean-up projects.