PSA: Panama Bans Plastic Bags, Why This Matters.

In 1977 Mobil Group overturned a patent for the “T-shirt plastic bag“, developed years earlier by Sten Gustaf Thulin, an engineer working at the Sweedish company Celloplast.

This would allow for the open production, and mass distribution of the instantly convenient “carry-all” bags, that we as consumers have come to know.

I’d also like to call this moment in time, the smoking gun.  A move that would propel an era of stupidity for future generations to look back on and shake their heads at in disapproval, for destroying the environment. Paper or Plastic ?

Research says the lifespan of a plastic bag from store to home is 20 mins. But plastic bags are like vampires, they’re immortal.  In 2002, Bangladesh became the world leader in banning plastic bags.

“Bangladesh has an annual rainfall of up to 5 meters and holds the world record for the highest rainfall in a single day. Plastic bags clog drains and waterways, threatening urban environments and creating severe safety hazards. Drainage systems blocked by plastic bags have been identified as a major cause of flooding in Bangladesh during monsoon season.”

Sounds familiar right? Insert Our country here.

You see, plastic doesn’t die. It just goes away to dark places you don’t see. Including our oceans, coastal and water ways. And the waste is literally sucking the lives from our coral.

“Plastic pollution is ‘killing corals’ by increasing risk of disease in reefs, say scientists”

159 coral reefs in the asian pacific region were surveyed and they found billions of plastic items were entangled in the reef. ” Plastic debris stresses coral through light deprivation, toxin release, and anoxia, giving pathogens a foothold for invasion”.

This contributes to hypoxic zones.  Areas in the ocean of such low oxygen concentration that animal life suffocates and dies, and as a result are sometimes called “dead zones”

According to an independent study done by Phoebe Thompson, and findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it is believed that there are numerous dead zones in the tropics that have yet to be identified and studied.

However Bahia Al Mirante, in Bocas Del Toro isn’t one of them, we know it’s a deadzone. We also know coral are affectedRead the findings and see for yourself.

But there is hope!

On Jan 19 of this year, Decree Law 1 was published in the Official Gazette, “which promotes the use of reusable bags in commercial establishments”.  Giving commercial entities 12 – 24  months to get their shit together. Panama Audubon Society (PAS),who played a key role in getting the President to pass the law believes “the plastic bag ban is an important first step that will pave the way for more stringent restrictions on other harmful single use products like straws and styrofoam.


So how can you prepare, and do your part in decreasing your plastic footprint now?

  1. Get your family on track and buy reusable “super” bags.  4 years ago my family took major steps to cut back using those pesky plastic bags. Honestly, they can only hold like 5 items anyway.  Locally, Riba Smithhas nice offerings: see above.
  2. Once you finish unloading the bags, place them next to the door. Doing this helps us remember to take them to the car so we have them on hand when we actually need to do “super”.
  3. Penalize yourself.  I’m human and have forgotten bags, often times I’ll use my purse. But if my purchase was too large, I’ll force myself to buy more reusable bags regardless if I have 15 at home.
  4. If you want to get even more active avoid other single use plastics. STOP USING STRAWS. Next time you buy a drink, opt for a straw-less one. Even if it comes with it, politely tell them gracias, but no gracias.
  5. Those coffee pods are the devil. We don’t need to go into it. Just stop. You know who you are.
  6. Bring your water, this is already common. If you don’t have your glass water bottle or Bubba get with the program. Bottled water is a sham.
  7. Get involved. Organizations like the Ocean Clean Up are working towards removing the huge garbage patch in the pacific. Volunteer, donate.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. But this is certainly the hope we need to get moving in the right direction.

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