Panama Bans Plastic Bags Nationwide

The republic becomes the first Central American nation to do so.

July 23, 2019

PANAMA CITY, Panama—Panama has banned single-use plastic bags in an effort to curb pollution and litter on its beaches and in the oceans, according to The New York Times.

Panama has joined 60 other countries that have totally or partially banned single-use plastic bags or created taxes to discourage their use, as Chile and Colombia have done. Signs that proclaim “less bags, more life” are posted in Panama City to remind passersby that the measure has gone into effect.

All supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers in Panama must stop using traditional polyethylene plastic bags immediately. Wholesale stores have until 2020 to conform to the regulation, which was approved in 2018. Non-compliance can result in fines, but there are some exceptions, such as using plastic bags for sanitary reasons.

It’s common to see plastic waste littering Panama’s beaches, particularly near populated areas. Birds, turtles, seals, fish and other creatures often become entangled in or consume pieces of plastic, which can be fatal.

Considering the projected growth in consumption and without new anti-pollution policies, oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish by weight by 2050, according to the New Plastics Economy report published by Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The report also notes that the entire plastics industry will consume 20% of total oil production by that time.