Costa Rica bans single-use plastic in national parks and biological reserves

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As part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the National Parks System, the Ministry of Environment and Energy issued the SINAC-DE-944-2020 directive prohibiting single-use plastic in Wildlife Protected Areas (ASP) of the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC).

The announcement was made on Tuesday in the Tortuguero National Park, in an activity in which the vice-minister of Environment, Pamela Castillo, the director of the System of Conservation Areas, Grettel Vega and the director of the Tortuguero Conservation Area, Laura Segura, as well as officials of the national park, participated – under strict sanitary measures.

The guideline was supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It prohibits the consumption, use and entry of single-use plastics in National Parks, Biological Reserves and National Monuments from 25 February 2021, six months after its signature. It also stipulates that SINAC Conservation Areas will strengthen actions aimed at the proper management of solid waste within their facilities.

It is important to note that it will not affect the conditions previously agreed in previous administrative contracts or permits for use and which are in force at the time of publication of this guideline, but SINAC will ensure that the new cartel conditions do comply with the provisions of this guideline.

The ban includes materials such as stirrers, straws, disposable cutlery (plastic forks, spoons and knives), disposable cups, fast food containers, plastic tableware, non-reusable plastic bags, disposable plastic bottles and wrappings that are not part of the final product.


It applies to visitors, researchers, associated service providers, natural or legal persons who carry out activities inside these areas, to civil servants and in general to all users who enter the Protected Wildlife Areas.

The guideline will be applied by SINAC officials, especially those working in the defined Protected Wildlife Areas, SINAC’s administrative and financial department, directors of conservation areas and SINAC’s institutional supply department.

SINAC officials will be the persons in charge of ensuring compliance with this directive, for which they must warn the different users of this prohibition and if they do not comply with it, they will be liable to confiscation of objects manufactured or packaged with single-use plastics.

The vice-minister of environment, Pamela Castillo, said that with the signing of this guideline, Costa Rica is making coherent progress towards tackling one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide, namely pollution. “Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, which has impacted different ecosystems,” she said.

“From MINAE we are taking a step forward to contribute to the reduction of the use of single-use plastics in National Parks and Biological Reserves as a conservation strategy but also as a way to raise awareness and educate visitors and communities surrounding the protected wildlife areas,” he added.

The vice-minister of Water and Seas of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, Haydée Rodríguez, commented that it is necessary to change our consumption habits for more sustainable solutions and to take a step towards that goal. “MINAE today signs a commitment to avoid the use of single-use plastics in Protected Wildlife Areas. These materials are those that are used only once and are discarded, so that their useful life ends after their first use,” he said.

The initiative is part of the Integrated Waste Management Plan 2016-2021, which provides a scheme for public, private and civil society institutions to propose, register and implement voluntary commitments regarding areas of joint action that would allow the substitution of single-use plastics with renewable and compostable alternatives, starting in the GAM and with repercussions in coastal areas.

The development of an integrated waste management system is precisely one of the axes of the National Decarbonisation Plan 2018-2050, which aims to turn Costa Rica into a green economy with zero net emissions by 2050.

National Strategy to replace the consumption of single-use plastics with renewable and compostable alternatives.

This action is part of the efforts of the National Strategy for the substitution of single-use plastics by renewable and compostable alternatives.

The Strategy aims to contribute to the solution of the pollution problem generated by plastics in the watersheds of the GAM, as well as its effects on the Costa Rican Pacific. It consists of a participatory process to promote voluntary actions aimed at eliminating one of the most common pollutants in the environment: single-use plastics.

José Vicente Troya Rodríguez, resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme, acknowledged that Costa Rica made a commitment to be a single-use plastic-free country by 2021. “UNDP endorsed this commitment and has been actively participating and supporting all actions to achieve this goal,” he said.


“Today we applaud and congratulate MINAE, SINAC and the Government of the Republic for banning single-use plastics in national parks and reserves. In these times when we must protect our health, let us also remember to protect our natural wealth,” he said.

According to the United Nations, more than eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans, causing serious consequences for marine flora and fauna, fisheries and tourism.

The Ministry of Health reported that for 2018 the country generated 1,462,397 tonnes of waste of which 4.2% was recovered in recycling, composting and co-processing, 88.6% was disposed of in landfills and dumps, and 7.2% had other final disposal, improving its management with respect to 2016 and 2017 data.

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