Rincon PR Goes Eco-Friendly With Landmark Plastic Bag Ban
Rincon recently became the first municipality in Puerto Rico to ban the use of plastic shopping bags, in an effort to protect marine life at the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve and encourage businesses across the island to move in a more eco-friendly direction. According to Rincon Mayor Carlos López, all businesses in the west coast town are required to eliminate the use of plastic bags by February 2015, or face fines ranging from $100 to $500, as Rincon works toward a zero-waste goal. As an alternative to single-use plastic shopping bags, businesses can offer recycled paper bags for sale, or customers can bring their own reusable tote bags.
“We are working in conjunction with environmental agencies, private industry, and local organizations to protect our most valuable assets: our natural resources,” said López after announcing the plastic bag ban. “This is one of many steps Rincon is taking to become an environmental model city.” The town of Rincon, known for its beautiful beaches, excellent whale-watching and world-class surf, boasts 14 miles of shoreline along the west coast of Puerto Rico, most notably the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve – the first designated marine reserve in all of Puerto Rico. The Tres Palmas Marine Reserve at Steps Beach in Rincon is home to a wide variety of marine life, including sea turtles, squid, coral formations, sea anemones, eels and more- all of which may be harmed by plastic bags.
Legislators have, in the past, considered laws that would allow businesses to charge customers for single-use plastic bags, but to date, no island-wide measure addressing the issue has been passed. This new ordinance took effect in Rincon in late February, and establishes a six-month period for local businesses to use their current inventory of single-use plastic bags, in addition to a 12-month period geared towards implementing an education and outreach program for the Rincon community, businesses and schools. According to López, the plastic bag ban was spearheaded by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials Lalitssa Lopez and Brenda Reyes, both of whom researched, drafted and introduced the framework for the ordinance in coordination with environmental consultants from Rincon.
“We are delighted that Rincon has taken this bold step to eliminate a source of plastic that has been shown to cause much damage to the environment, particularly to marine life,” said Monserrate Perez, president of the Surfrider Foundation in Rincon. With this landmark decision, Rincon Puerto Rico joins other U.S. cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle in banning environmentally-harmful single-use plastic bags, and promoting more eco-friendly options like reusable tote bags. López has reported that revenue from the plastic bag fines will benefit environmental programs, and he hopes that Rincon’s plastic bag ban will urge other municipalities in Puerto Rico to take similar action to protect the island’s vulnerable beaches and marine life.