President Laurentino Cortizo passed the law No. 187 of December 2, 2020, which calls for the phasing out and replacement of various articles of single-use plastics in Panama during the years 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Mentioned specifically in the legislation are the following single-use plastic products (see official graphics below):
To be phased out beginning July 1, 2021: the sticks in cotton swabs for cleaning ears, garment covers, plastic spokes for holding up balloons, plastic toothpicks, cocktail stirrers, plastic pieces for candy and the six-pack rings for canned beverages
To be phased out beginning July 1, 2022: plastic egg cartons, disposable plastic plates and plastic beverage stirrers (seemingly different the plastic cocktail stirrers to be phased out in 2021)
To be phased out beginning December 23, 2023: plastic straws
It does not appear to be an outright ban on these articles, according to the language published in the graphics by Panama’s Ministry of Environment, but rather a “control of demand and consumption, gradually replacing these articles with other options of less impact.” At any rate, it is a step in the right direction for the country that was also the first in Central America to begin to phase out the commercial use of plastic bags during 2018- 2020, with polyethylene bags being used in grocery stores, pharmacies, and retailers officially banned as of July 20, 2019.
The Bocas Breeze was proud to report that long before Panama’s national prohibition, local activists Cero Basura en Bocas fought to make Bocas del Toro island local municipality the government body to actually lead the charge in officially banning the use of commercial use of single-use plastic bags in April 2017. The same local government also passed a law banning single-use plastics in restaurants as of September 1st, 2018, however this legislation hasn’t been as successfully implemented as the plastic bag ban. You will be hard pressed to find any stores giving out plastic bags to their customers, but unfortunately there are some restaurants that have not embraced the idea of stopping the use of styrofoam and other single-use plastic utensils in their establishments.
Residents of Bocas del Toro have noticed quite a difference since the overwhelmingly successful banning of single-use plastic bags in 2017. There is still much work to be done with the single-use restaurant plastics and waste reduction and recycling in general, however a step in the right direction was made with the flick of President Cortizo’s pen on December 2nd, 2020 and that must be acknowledged.