Costa Rica is hoping to make a dent in the trillions of plastics polluting the oceans and the environment by becoming the first country to ban all single-use plastic products by 2021.
Some U.S. cities, states and other countries have either banned plastic bags or are working on a plan to do so, but that only touches the surface of what Costa Rica wants to do. Forks, lids, coffee stirrers, water bottles, and a multitude of other products would be prohibited under the ban. 
In the last half-century, use of plastic has increased 20-fold. There appears to be no place on Earth that is untouched by plastic waste. Even the Mariana trench – the deepest part of the world’s oceans – is littered with plastic. In a report published last year by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur foundation, experts estimate there will be more bits of plastic in the sea than fish by 2050.
Some 40,000 tons of solid waste is produced in Costa Rica every year, and 20% of it never makes its way to a recycling center or landfill. Instead, the waste ends up in Costa Rican rivers, beaches, and forests.
The country already has plans in place to be carbon-neutral by 2021, partly by ditching fossil fuels. It is also actively trying to restore its forests and protect wildlife.
The effort is being spearheaded by Costa Rica’s Ministries of Health and Environment and Energy, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and local governments, as well as civil society and various private sector groups. 
In a joint statement, Environment and Energy minister Edgar Gutiérrez, Health minister María Esther Anchía, and resident representative for UNDP Costa Rica Alice Shackelford, said:
“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. 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 Rican researchers have been busily working toward replacing traditional plastics. For example, 3 university students developed a material made from bananas that is 5 times more resistant than regular plastic bags. The material disintegrates within 18 months. The downside of this material, however, is that it is equipped with a pesticide-releasing system. 
Other solutions are clearly needed in the near future.
This article originally appeared at Natural Society.
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