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The last straw for Costa Rica: a plastic-free country by 2021 - Scuba diving Costa Rica

Every minute, one garbage truckload of plastic is dumped into the ocean. At the current rate, this is expected to turn into two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.

By 2050, 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic and the amount of plastic in the ocean will weigh more than fish.

The state of the oceans has developed into a dire situation that requires immediate action and intervention. Used for a matter of minutes before they are discarded, single-use plastics contribute a great deal to ocean pollution. These items take much longer to decompose and causes a number of problems for marine life and other animals that rely on the ocean for survival. Not to mention the CO2 emissions released during the production of plastic.

Dramatic steps for conservation

Plastic straw in turtle's nostril

An olive ridley turtle bleeding as a straw is removed from its nose.

In 2015, a research team released a shocking video of scientists trying to extract a plastic straw from the nostril of a male Olive Ridley turtle. The turtle was found off the coast of Costa Rica, but it is by no means the only turtle or only area affected. However, Costa Rica has announced their plan to completely eradicate single-use plastics in the country by 2021 – becoming the first country in the world to do so.

The government offers incentives to businesses that comply and have also invested in the research of alternative options to single-use plastics. In fact, it has now become quite common to encounter recycled materials and bamboo straws at many restaurants. In addition to this, the country receives technical and financial support from the United Nations Development Program to encourage research and development in this field. They have also created an online platform where any Costa Rican citizen or business is able to follow the progress of action taken, register their own products, or plastic alternatives.

A good track record

The Costa Rica coastline

Costa Rica also places great focus on renewable energy.

While many countries and cities have restricted single-use plastics, Costa Rica aims to be the first country to completely outlaw all products made from this material, including straws, bottles, cutlery, cups and bags. As a world leader in wildlife protection, the country places great emphasis on the conservation and protection of nature as well as on renewable energy.

During 2015 and 2016, this Central American country used 100% renewable energy for more than two-thirds of the year. Along with their 2021 plastic ban goal, they also seek to become carbon neutral by that time.

This initiative is a brave and bold one that one can only applaud. But you don’t need to be a government or a business owner to do your share to help the oceans. Here are small things you can change in your daily life to reduce the amount of trash in the sea:

Conservation tips

What you can do to help the ocean.