The Ecuadorian government has passed a new resolution to ban plastic bags in the Galapagos Islands in order to promote environmental responsibility. Given the fragile nature of the Archipelago’s ecosystems and the potential environmental hazards caused by discarded plastic bags, this is a very positive step towards a more sustainable Galapagos.
Around 4.5 million plastic bags are used in Galapagos each year. Viviana de la Rosa, the head of environmental education at the Galapagos National Park (GNP), told the Latin American television network TeleSUR that “the average use of these bags is 15 minutes, but their degradation takes 200 years”.
It is estimated that 1.5 million birds, fish, whales and turtles die every year (globally) due to plastic pollution. The Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) is a hugely diverse ecosystem, with tropical, temperate and cold-water species living in close proximity thanks to the currents that converge around the Islands. Whilst it is almost impossible to control plastics that are brought in by these currents from outside the GMR, restricting single-use plastics on the Islands is a reliable way to reduce the impact that plastics cause.
Over the following weeks, GNP rangers and students of the GNP’s environmental education programme will conduct door to door visits to deliver free reusable cloth bags to the community. The cloth shopping bags, which should have a lifespan of several years, will first be distributed to the households on Santa Cruz, the most populated island in Galapagos.
The GNP are also running a series of awareness-raising events including the puppet-show “Plasticol”, to motivate the community and to ensure that the ban is a success.
by Pete Haskell