Galapagos banned plastic bags in 2015 and by doing so, this remote archipelago set a world class example.
The effects of plastic pollution's toll on the environment and wildlife--including marine animals and birds continues to become more apparent. Today nations, businesses, and individuals all over the world are stepping up to make changes to reduce the amount of plastic that needs to be produced and used.
The Galapagos Islands, which are a part of Ecuador and border the country on the west, have become one of many places that have banned the use of plastic bags. While other areas in the world may be reluctant to institute this type of ban, it's necessary in order to preserve myriad life forms and prevent adverse environmental effects.
But countries that would like to institute bans on plastic bags may be at a loss for how to go about doing so. However, with the example that the Galapagos have set, others can now follow suit and make a positive change as well.
One of Many Environmental Policies
The ban on plastic bags is one of the several environmental politics that President Rafael Correa has implemented throughout his term as leader of Ecuador. Through his efforts, the country is the first one to recognise the rights of nature within its Constitution.
By valuing the natural world and all of the creatures that live within it, Ecuador is taking huge leaps in preserving the environment for generations to come. The ban on plastic bags in the Galapagos Islands, in particular, is meant to protect this ecological haven and keep plastic pollution out of it.
By banning plastic bags, many species, from birds to mammals and reptiles, which would otherwise potentially be harmed by the plastic, would also be preserved. After all, many animals end up entangled in plastic, or ingesting plastic, and die, as a result.
Again, this is just one of several measures that are being taken by Ecuador to preserve its natural beauty. Polystyrene, which is usually referred to as Styrofoam, has also been banned, so you will not find any polystyrene containers throughout the Galapagos either because of the material's destructive impact on the environment.
How Exactly are Plastic Bags Banned from the Galapagos Islands?
It is estimated that people on the Galapagos Islands use roughly 4.5 million plastic bags per year. This will change, though, thanks to the ban on these items.
The ban on plastic bags will work simply by preventing the entry, distribution, and sale of these items throughout the Galapagos. Though this may seem extreme to some, it makes a lot of sense when you think about the impact that a single un-recycled plastic bag has on the environment.
According to Viviana de la Rosa, who is the head of environmental education in Galapagos National Park, people use a plastic bag for about 15 minutes before discarding it.
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However, it takes 200 years to degrade once in the environment. In that time, it can cause immense damage that can't be undone.
On top of the environmental impact that plastic bags cause, it is important to note that the Galapagos Islands don't have a means to treat solid waste like plastic.
Anything that gets on the islands is very hard to eliminate. Therefore, completely banning the material altogether is the best ways to eliminate the problem, maintain the integrity of the environment on the islands, and preserve maritime life.
About Plastic Pollution
Because plastic does not biodegrade easily, it ends up not only in landfills, but also in the environment, where it wreaks havoc on local wildlife. In total, scientists have estimated that roughly 1.5 million fish, turtles, whales, and birds die every year throughout the oceans of the world as a direct result of plastic pollution and waste.
On an individual level, people can make an impact by reducing their consumption of plastic bags and plastic products, as well as by recycling.
About the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are known as the birthplace of Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution, which he came up with in 1831 while exploring the area.
Today, more than 27,000 people inhabit these pristine islands. And over 200,000 visitors explore them every year, thanks to the countless species of plants, marine animals, birds, and reptiles, some of which can't be found anywhere else in the world.
Would you like to dive into the new Galapagos Marine Sanctuary? Contact us today, we have multiple partners on Galapagos who offer dive packages + accommodation.
Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.