Local April 16, 2019 | 1:31 pm

Plastics in the Dominican Republic: “It’s time for us to stop turning a blind eye”

This is how the Malecón in Santo Domingo awoke on Thursday, July 12, 2018. & copy; Jorge Cruz / LD

The petition “We forbid plastic bags in the Dominican Republic” has more than 61,000 signatures from people who want the Dominican State to react to this problem.

Last year we saw how, after a simple rain, the Malecón de Santo Domingo became filled with solid waste, mostly disposable plastic (plastic bottles, bags, sorbets, etc.).

The Ozama River dragged these to the coast of the capital.

This event was of colossal proportions: it even drew local and international attention, but what about the other rivers in the country? They are all in the same situation: the Yaque del Norte river, the Haina river or the Yuna river, to name a few.

When these events go unnoticed, they wreak havoc on the marine fauna and end up contributing all that plastic to the oceanic currents, which carry the waste to all the oceans of the planet. This is how 40 kilos of plastic bags ended up in the stomach of a dead whale in the Philippines and 20 kilos more in a sperm whale in Italy.

Plastics represent 75% of all solid waste that reaches the seas and oceans, silently killing sea turtles, fish, birds, whales, and dolphins that are just some of the groups that are suffering the consequences of the 8 million tons of plastics that arrive as garbage to the oceans annually. 

This is why the World Economic Forum predicts that, if the current trend continues, by 2050, in terms of weight, there will be more plastics than fish in the oceans.

Negative impact

The plastics in the oceans over time break down into tens, hundreds and thousands of pieces, releasing chemicals such as Bisphenol A, better known as BPA. This organic compound accumulates in marine fauna, and when it reaches humans, it affects male and female fertility, due to its exceptional ability to bind to estrogen receptors. It also affects the neurological development of children.

In the United States, the state of New York recently became the third state to ban disposable bags after California and Hawaii; the ban will begin in March 2020.

In the European Union, recently the Eurocamara (chamber of deputies of the European Union) approved a document that would prohibit by 2021 a great variety of disposable plastics.

MEPs banned plastic swabs, sorbets, cutlery, and plates, as well as expanded polystyrene containers, commonly used in the food industry, the latter suggested by the same MEPs.

This measure complements the prohibition of disposable plastic bags currently in force.

They also paid attention to the oxodegradable products that decompose in the environment and that are falsely often called biodegradable.

Alert in the Dominican Republic

It is of the utmost importance that the Dominican Congress pay attention to these points because in the draft law on solid waste management stipulate oxodegradable products as a partial solution and they are not.

It is also necessary to reduce from 60 to 18 months the time in which the banning of foam, plastic bags and others will begin. Or do they intend to pass a lame law where the central idea will take effect five years after the code is enacted?

The country continues to await a law that effectively regulates solid waste, which promotes the development and use of alternative products, friendly to the environment, recyclable and as far as possible locally produced, a law in accordance with the times and circumstances, not an anachronistic law and made to measure to benefit some.

We think that the next step is to debate the law with experts in the field to redress the inconsistencies of the solid waste management bill.

At present, the petition “We prohibit plastic bags in the Dominican Republic” has more than 61,000 signatures of people who want the Dominican State to react to this problem, that the Minister of the Environment and the congressmen stop turning a blind eye, legislate and regulate to mitigate this problem.

“The country continues to await a law that regulates solid waste in an effective manner, that promotes the development and use of alternative products that are environmentally friendly, recyclable and, as far as possible, locally produced, a law in accordance with the times and the circumstances, not an anachronistic law and made to measure to benefit some.”

—Peter Sánchez

Peter Sánchez

Peter Sánchez is a biologist, Dominican, promoter of the petition “We ban plastic bags in the Dominican Republic” on the Change.org platform

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