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Masters in Conservation Leadership

Plastics ban Peru

Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA), 19TH December, 2018

On December 5th, 2018, the Peruvian Congress approved a historic law that seeks to reduce single-use plastics in Peru. Yesterday, the Law was signed by President Vizcarra and today was published in the official daily of Peru, El Peruano. With this move, Peru joins other countries such as Kenya and Chile, as well as the European Union that are actively tackling plastic pollution. This landmark success is the result of concerted efforts by civil society and social enterprises, including the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA), Conservamos por Naturaleza, L.O.O.P., Ciudad Saludable, Oceana, Oxfam Peru, WWF Peru, and MOCICC. A pivotal role was played by the leadership of the Ministry for Environment through Minister Fabiola Muñoz, media groups that helped place the issue on the national agenda, and citizens around the country that raised their voices through campaigns such as HAZla por tu Playa.

The law combines different legal mechanisms, including outright bans on certain products, economic disincentives, and education measures. Here is a brief summary of what the law implies, its strengths and limitations, and next steps.

1) Is the law already in force? The law will be in force as of December 19th 2018. The next step is the creation of the accompanying regulations to the law (within 180 days of the law coming into force), which will detail the mechanisms for achieving the aims established in the law. Furthermore, the government has 240 days to develop the technical norms that include definitions, quality requirements, and other technical aspects such as defining when plastic can be considered ¨reusable¨and "biodegradable", and when not.

2) What does the law regulate? The scope of the law is national. It regulates:

  • single-use plastics;
  • other non-reusable plastics;
  • disposable food and drink containers made of expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam);
  • plastic bottles (only their composition).

It does not apply to:

  • plastic bags used for bulk transport of food;
  • plastic bags use for transport of animal-based foods;
  • plastic bags where these are necessary for safety, sanitary, hygiene or health reasons;
  • plastic straws used in hospitals and clinics;
  • plastic straws that are sold with packaged juices or yoghurts, and that can be recycled

with the product.

The final loophole regarding straws from packaged juices and yoghurts was a last-minute change, for which it will be necessary to carefully analyze how the regulations and technical norms further define whether a straw can be "recycled with the product". For instance, a key question is whether such recycling facilities are even available in Peru.

3) The law prohibits production (for national use), import, distribution, and sale of the following:

  • Single-use bags, straws, and Styrofoam in protected areas, beaches, museums, national heritage sites or cultural sites, as well as in government institutions (within 120 days);
  • advertising and newspapers in plastic wrapping (within 120 days);
  • plastic bags smaller than 900cm2 and thinner than 50 microns (within 12 months);
  • plastic straws (except where these are necessary for health reasons (within 12 months);
  • plastics bags that are non-biodegradable (within 12 months);
  • non-reusable plastic bags in supermarkets, general commerce and warehouses – these must be replaced with reusable bags, or bags that do not degenerate into microplastics (within 36 months);
  • plastic plates, cups and utensils for human food consumption that are not recyclable (within 36 months);
  • expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) plates, cups and utensils for human food consumption (within 36 months).

4) Plastic bottles: Regarding plastic bottles for drinks, shampoo and other personal hygiene items, the law stipulates that these must include at least 15% recycled PET in the composition of the bottle, within 36 months. This is perhaps one of the weakest points in the law, because it does not tackle the overall quantity of plastic bottles produced, sold and bought. The minimum amount of 15% recycled PET is low, lower even than what some soda companies like Coca Cola are already implementing.

5) Economic disincentives: There are two important economic disincentives for plastic bag use. First, plastic bags must be explicitly sold at a market price, i.e., their costs can no longer be hidden in the cost of other products, as has been the case until now in grocery stores, where bags are distributed at no explicit cost. Instead, plastic bags will now be detailed in the buyer's bill. Second, one of the most innovative aspects of the law is the tax on plastic bags, charged per bag upon its purchase. This tax will be PEN 00.10 in 2019, increasing by PEN 00.10 every year until reaching PEN 00.50 in 2023. Consumers who decide to purchase a plastic bag will now see two items on their bills: the cost of the bag, and the plastic tax.

6) Defining "biodegradable": Since the law allows for plastic bags that are biodegradable, the term must be carefully defined. A victory for environmental groups was that the law specifically exempts those bags that fragment into microplastics (such as "oxobiodegradable" bags) from being considered as biodegradable. The text was included despite a heavy lobby from producers of "oxobiodegradable" bags that tried to push for these to be exempted from the ban.

The law also creates a certificate for biodegradability for biodegradable bags, which must be emitted by an accredited laboratory. These technical standards will be included in the technical norms of the law. Having access to laboratories, funds and human capacities to conduct the necessary tests and research will be fundamental to this process, which could otherwise become a significant bottleneck.

7) Raising awareness: the law tasks several ministries, all regional governments and the private sector with raising awareness about plastic pollution and its effects on human health and the environment.

Overall, the law is a significant step forward in curbing plastic bag pollution in Peru and global marine environments. Important next steps include advising the government in designing sound regulations and technical norms to accompany the different points put forward by the law. Civic engagement, environmental groups and the media will be instrumental in monitoring compliance with the law and building implementation capacity of responsible government institutions - especially at the regional level. Meanwhile, the law has opened up further incentives for the growth of new industries and research related to sustainable packaging.

Meanwhile, future campaigns should strengthen some of the weaknesses of the law, for instance, by designing mechanisms for reducing plastic pollution in the form of plastic bottles.