The residents of a small town in Guatemala came together three years ago with a single objective: get rid of plastic for good. In 2019, they fully accomplished their ambitious goal.
How this Guatemalan town tackled its plastic pollution problem… and won!
The small town of San Pedro La Laguna, located in the western department of Sololá department of Guatemala, has completely turned its back on the use of plastic bags, straws and other single-use plastic disposables, replacing these items with more environmentally friendly alternatives such as banana leaves, baskets or woven napkins.
The community of 10,000 chose to forgo the use of plastic in 2016, when the municipal government began mandating all visitors to avoid the use of plastic goods. The measure was largely aimed at preserving Lake Atitlán, a body of water in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range that had in recent years become a dump with poor water quality.
Just three years after the community-wide plastic-free initiative, and the people of San Pedro La Laguna are already witnessing the positive results of their eco decision. According to Naturaleza Gurú, pollution in the lake has dropped, with plastic waste in particular down 90% in this 3-year timeframe.
For environmental justice activists in other countries, the town’s accomplishment has become an example of a different reality and a source of inspiration.
“The willpower and responsibility of the inhabitants of this town shows humanity that the famous phrase ‘to want is power’ applies to all effects, including caring for and maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment,” wrote Sheila Moreno for the Spain-based environmental news site.
Let’s hope more communities will turn that inspiration into positive action. See below for more Guatemala plastic-ban news.
Guatemala bans use of disposable plastic and sets two-year deadline
Guatemala announced on Friday it will ban single-use plastic bags and various disposable utensils, following in the footsteps of Panama, which this year became the first Central American country to adopt similar environmentally conscious measures.
In its official gazette, the government said the public will have two years to find alternatives to the bags and various products such as plastic plates, cups and straws.
The new regulations, which do not need to be approved by Congress and already in force in some parts of the country, will include penalties for non-compliance, with exceptions such as for materials for medical purposes.
The colonial city of Antigua has already banned use of plastic bags and other products, as did the Sunday market in San Pedro La Laguna by Lake Atitlan, where residents opted to replace them with alternatives made of banana tree leaves.
Of all the waste produced in Guatemala, about 60% is organic and 40% inorganic, authorities say.
Guatemalan Environment Minister Alfonso Alonzo told a news conference that the measure would eliminate more than half of the non-organic waste produced in the country.
Panama banned the use of plastic bags in July to try to stop ecological damage on its beaches.
Birds, turtles, seals, whales and fish often become entangled or ingest the remnants of plastic bags in Latin America, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Plastic bags can take centuries to degrade.
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