The Ministry of the Environment announces the sending of an indication to Congress to ban plastic bags in all shops. Once the Parliament approves the proposal, it will enter into force one year after its publication in the Official Gazette.
Next month the Ministry of the Environment will send a substitute indication to Congress to prohibit the delivery of plastic bags in commerce throughout the country, including the so-called biodegradable ones. This was confirmed to La Tercera by the minister of the branch, Marcela Cubillos, who in this way modifies the initiative of the government of Michelle Bachelet, which initially proposed last year the restriction in the coastal communes.
“Today there are nine bills of parliamentary initiative (or motions) in Congress to prohibit the use or delivery of plastic bags. However, recognizing the initiative of the senators and deputies, the Executive is working on a substitute indication for the project that is more advanced. This initiative is being presented to the Ministry General Secretariat of the Presidency to continue with its processing in Congress, ”says the minister.
The prohibition will apply throughout the national territory. And the proposal is that it enter into force within one year from its publication in the Official Gazette, with the exception of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, in which case, the provisions of the law will enter into force within the term two years from its publication.
In the time that mediates between the publication of the law and the terms indicated in the previous paragraph for its validity, the commercial establishments may deliver a maximum of two plastic commercial bags to consumers, for each purchase they make.
“The environmental pollution generated by plastic bags is a global problem. According to estimates by the Association of Plastic Industries, in Chile 3.4 billion plastic bags are used per year, which translates into 200 bags per year per person, of which a large part ends up in landfills or in the environment. In response to this problem, more than 55 municipalities have established regulations for the use or delivery of plastic bags, from the voluntary sphere. By means of a general law, the criteria will be uniform and the practical problems that a company can entail having different regulations in each commune will be avoided, ”says Cubillos.
Why did they decide to propose a total ban throughout the territory and not just in 102 coastal communes? Was the previous government's proposal badly designed?
Pollution from plastic bags is a problem that is generated not only in coastal communities. In addition, the application to the entire territory of a problem that belongs to everyone has a sense of equality.
Does the substitute indication include fines or infractions of the regulations? Who will audit?
Bearing in mind the experience of municipalities in the implementation of environmental ordinances, we consider it ideal that they have an active role in the control of the measure. A fine for municipal benefit of 5 monthly tax units is established for each bag delivered, which will be imposed by the corresponding Local Police Court. The amount and way of applying the sanction is an issue that will be discussed during the legislative process.
According to Cubillos, most of the bills presented in Congress establish the prohibition of non-biodegradable plastic bags, as a solution to environmental pollution. But studies carried out by the Ministry of the Environment and the National Institute for Standardization (INN) have concluded that, at the international level, there is no technical standard that allows certifying the biodegradability of non-renewable polymer bags under natural conditions. “In other words, plastic bags made of materials such as polyethylene or polypropylene require industrial processes for their degradation, so when they go to the landfill or landfill they do not degrade. For this reason, the prohibition to which the executive points out will not refer to the condition of biodegradability ”, he says.
What type of trade is the first in which the measure will take effect?
The initiative will take into consideration a reasonable period for the entry into force of the prohibition by commercial establishments, so that the market and citizens can adapt to the measure. The incorporation of a deferred validity for smaller companies is also being evaluated.
Do you think that the discussion around this initiative will be quick and Chile could have a total ban in 2019?
There is a cross-sectional consensus on this measure. Many parliamentarians from different sectors are authors of different motions. They are the ones who are also pushing us to hurry up and move forward with the law.
The plastics industry (Asipla) has been critical of the bans announcements and on previous occasions have said that 94% of people use the bags to throw away garbage. Have you met them?
During the legislative process, all sectors that want to express their opinion will be able to be heard. To Asipla and to all those who request it, and also to the mayors of communes that have already implemented the measure so that they can tell us how they have solved those possible problems.
It is important to understand that Chile must adjust quickly to the world trend. England has just made a "Plastics Pact" in which 40 British companies commit that by 2025 100% of their packaging will be ready to be recycled.
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