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26/04/2018 Plastic pollution

Government Council of Galapagos to phase out single-use plastics on the Islands

According to scientists, Galapagos is best placed of anywhere in the world to show how a marine reserve can tackle the growing global environmental problem of plastic pollution in our oceans.

Photograph of Clare Simm

Clare Simm

Former Communications Manager at Galapagos Conservation Trust

It was great news that, on Sunday 22 April 2018 as part of Earth Day celebrations on the Islands, the Government Council of Galapagos (CGREG) passed a new resolution to restrict single-use plastics in the Galapagos Islands. The plastic types that will be phased out are plastic straws, single-use plastic bags (t-shirt type), polythene containers (such as those used for takeaways) and plastic bottles.

This is a welcome announcement in response to growing concerns of plastic pollution throughout Galapagos, and its impact on wildlife. At least 18 species, so far, have been recorded in the Archipelago as either being entangled by, or ingesting, plastic. This is particularly worrying in Galapagos, as the majority of its birds, reptiles and land mammals are only found on the Islands, and therefore are likely to be more vulnerable to the impacts of plastic pollution than other places in the world.

There are growing concerns about plastic pollution in Galapagos © Andy Donnelly/GCT

There are growing concerns about plastic pollution in Galapagos © Andy Donnelly/GCT

These developments form part of the CGREG’s initiative to make Galapagos plastic-free once again. Restrictions on each type of plastic will be implemented over the next four months, starting with straws in May. The CGREG will be working with a range of partners including Ecuadorian Government Ministries, Galapagos National Park, local agencies, scientists, NGOs and the local community to ensure that the plan is successful across the inhabited islands.

Galapagos Conservation Trust is supporting this partnership through our Plastics Programme. We are raising funds and awareness in the UK, leveraging international expertise and assisting with the critical science and educational campaigns necessary to make the vision of a ‘Galapagos Sin Plasticos’ (Galapagos without plastics) a reality.

Plastic-free Galapagos Workshop

As part of this, along with the Galapagos Science Center, we are co-hosting the Plastic-Free Galapagos Workshop on the Islands in May, with the theme ‘From Science to Solutions’. This workshop will bring together key stakeholders from Galapagos, as well as some of the expert scientists who were on our plastics panel at Galapagos Day in 2017, to discuss four topics:

  • Quantifying the impacts of plastics (including to the economy and wildlife)
  • The sources and sinks of plastics in Galapagos (i.e. where they come from and where they end up)
  • Identifying solutions (including beach clean ups and alternative products)
  • Changing people’s behaviours (to encourage them to reduce their use of plastics)
© Andy Donnelly

The workshop will include scientists from Galapagos, such as Juan Pablo Muñoz from the Galapagos Science Center (pictured right)           © Andy Donnelly

By exploring these themes, the workshop aims to develop a five-year plan to address the issues surrounding plastic pollution, building on existing community initiatives (such as Grupo Eco Cultural Organizado), whilst supporting the scientific research needed to answer critical questions and investigate solutions that will actually work to manage plastic pollution in Galapagos.

This is a hugely ambitious project but single-use plastics can be eliminated from the Galapagos Archipelago, helping to protect the species most impacted by plastic pollution. If you would like to support this project, why not donate to GCT today?

You can follow our updates on the Plastic-free Galapagos Workshop during May via Twitter and Facebook, and the hashtag #plasticfreegalapagos.

Watch our video below to find out what efforts are currently being taken in Galapagos to reduce plastic pollution.

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