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    Green Machine: Costa Rica Vows to Eliminate Single-Use Plastics by 2021

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    On June 5, also known as World Environment Day, Costa Rica announced its dream to lead the world’s first initiative to eradicate single-use plastics by 2021. The country’s ambitious goal is to replace products like plastic bags, straws, containers and coffee stirrers with renewable materials, reported EcoWatch.

    The initiative, which is spearheaded by the Central American nation's Ministry of Health and its Ministry of Environment and Energy, is also receiving support from the UNDP, as well as local governments, civil societies and private sector groups. 

    Such an arduous feat naturally requires collaboration between multiple stakeholders.

    "Being a country free of single-use plastics is our mantra and our mission. It's not going to be easy, and the government can't do it alone," read a shared statement from Environment and Energy Minister Edgar Gutiérrez, Health Minister María Esther Anchía and UNDP Costa Rica representative Alice Shackelford.

    "To promote these changes, we need all sectors — public and private — to commit to actions to replace single-use plastic through five strategic actions: municipal incentives, policies and institutional guidelines for suppliers; replacement of single-use plastic products; research and development — and investment in strategic initiatives. We also need the leadership and participation of all: women, men, boys and girls."

    Costa Rica has risen as a global environmental superstar over the years. For more than 250 days in 2016, the country's electric grid was solely powered by renewable energy sources including wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydropower. This is the second time in two years the country has run on 100 percent renewable energy.

    "We are a small country with great goals! We remain committed to the goal of carbon neutrality for 2021," the Costa Rica Electricity Institute wrote on Facebook in 2016.

    Costa Rica remains committed to adding to its list of renewable energy accomplishments. 

    "Although the country has been an example to the world by reversing deforestation and doubling its forest cover from 26 percent in 1984 to more than 52 percent this year, today one fifth of the 4,000 tonnes of solid waste produced daily is not collected and ends up as part of the Costa Rican landscape, also polluting rivers and beaches," the officials explained.

    "Single-use plastics are a problem not only for Costa Rica but also for the whole world. It is estimated that if the current consumption pattern continues, by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish, measured by weight. For this reason, we began our journey to turn Costa Rica into a single-use plastic-free zone."

    "It's a win-win for all: Costa Rica, the people and the planet."

    Almost 50 countries vowed to be completely reliant on renewable energy by 2050 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, in 2016. Many of those countries are members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which was established in 2009 for countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change. During the conference, countries like Ethiopia, the Marshall Islands and Bangladesh all promised to become fossil-fuel free between 2030 and 2050.

    Time will tell whether other countries will follow Costa Rica's lead.

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    Tags:
    carbon gas emissions, plastic, elimination, renewable energy, United Nations, Costa Rica
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