What’s New as far as Costa Rican Official Sustainable Practices
Costa Rica has been known as a haven of sustainability and conservation for the last decade. Each year, the country moves closer to its goal of becoming the first carbon neutral country in the world. Some of the notable facts about sustainability in Costa Rica include:
- 25% of the land in Costa Rica is protected natural land, divided between national parks, wildlife refuges, and biological reserves.
- 98.7% of Costa Rica’s electricity comes from 100% renewable resources
- In 2019, Costa Rica earned the prestigious title of Champion of the Earth by the United Nations Environmental Programme.
Now, in 2021, there are new policy changes in Costa Rica that further contribute to sustainability. Here’s a rundown on some of the sustainability laws that you may notice on your next trip to our tropical paradise.
Costa Rica Bans Styrofoam Importation
On July 15, Costa Rican president Carlos Alvarado signed into law a ban on the import and sales of Styrofoam. There are exceptions to this ban, notably for cases in which there is no viable alternative to Styrofoam, such as packaging of household appliances and some industrial uses.
The government charged the Health Ministry with starting an initiative to find a suitable replacement for Styrofoam packaging. The Health Minister, Daniel Salas, said, “It’s a material that can’t be reutilised. This is why this ban on import and commercialisation is so important, as it will reduce the pollution caused by this type of waste.”
Tourists to Costa Rica may not notice the lack of Styrofoam directly, but they’ll definitely notice the national dedication to sustainability.
Costa Rica Bans Plastic Straws, Plastic Bags, and Plastic Bottles
In 2018, the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica approved a law to ban plastic straws and many plastic bags. The government’s current goal is to completely eliminate single-use plastics by the end of the year, including non-biodegradable plastic bottles.
As most of the world knows by now, plastic straws and plastic bags pose an incredibly dangerous threat to wildlife and the purity of our oceans and beaches. As a country with over 800 miles of coastline and 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity, we really care about protecting the world’s nature.
The law banning single use plastic does provide an exception for plastic bags and plastic bottles that can be reused, are made of recycled material, or are biodegradable. Straws that are included in a product’s packaging have three years left before being banned.
You’ll notice the lack of straws and bags in the country’s restaurants and stores the next time you visit Costa Rica. It really is a change for the better!
Costa Rica Prohibits Entry of Single-Use Plastics to Its National Parks
As of February 25, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) began banning the entrance of all single use plastics to its national parks. Single-use plastic is also prohibited in biological reserves and national monuments. This includes straws, disposable cutlery, takeaway food containers, non-reusable plastic bags, disposable plastic bottles, and any wrappers that are not part of the final product.
The executive director of SINAC stated, “we take a step forward to contribute to the reduction of the use of disposable plastics within the National Parks and Biological Reserves as a conservation strategy, but also as a way of sensitizing and educating the visitor and surrounding communities.”
Keep this in mind if you have a Costa Rican national park or biological reserve on your itinerary during your vacation to Costa Rica. If you’re carrying a plastic water bottle upon entrance, you’ll be asked to recycle it, prior to entering the park. While this sustainable policy may be inconvenient for some, in the end it will contribute to a much more beautiful and clean Costa Rica.
Costa Rican Public Institutions and Companies Cannot Purchase Single-Use Plastic Items
As part of the previous laws limiting the purchase, sale, and use of non-recyclable single-use plastic, the government announced that public institutions were prohibited from purchasing these items. The only exception is for plastic products that are recyclable or have been recycled previously. This will greatly decrease the amount of plastic cutlery, straws, bags, and other items that may have ended up in landfills or worse, polluting the ocean.
Costa Rica Has Banned Oil and Gas Exploration and Exploitation Since 2002
There has been an official decree banning the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas in Costa Rica since 2002. This decree has kept oil and gas companies out of Costa Rica for nearly this entire time. While the decree was extended by the current president until 2050. Nonetheless, there is a current law in the works in the Legislative Assembly to turn this decree into a law, which will hopefully be voted on in the coming months.
While the presence or lack of gas and oil drilling on Costa Rican land may not be that visible to visitors, this law is crucial for ensuring a sustainable future for generations.
Costa Rica Plans To Do Away with Fossil Fuels by 2050
The National Decarbonization Plan of 2018-2050 aims to abolish the use of fossil fuels by the year 2050. While this goal is lofty, there have been several strides taken to reach it over the last couple years, and many more to come. The plan encompasses four broad areas:
- Transportation and Sustainable Mobility
- Energy, Sustainable Construction, and Industry
- Comprehensive Waste Management
- Agricultural Change, Land Use, and Nature-Based Solutions
The biggest challenge for Costa Rica in the next several years is transportation and emissions. We’ll see what progress we’re able to make in the years to come.
How Costa Rica’s Sustainability Policies Affect Tourists
Whether an international tourist or one of the growing local tourists, these bans on Styrofoam and single-use may affect you.
If you’re going hiking in one of our renowned national parks, it’s completely natural to carry a plastic water bottle. In Costa Rica’s heat and humidity, hydration is crucial! However, you will not be able to bring that into the park.
What can you do? Make sure to carry a refillable plastic, glass, or metal water bottle. This is a great idea, even if you’re not planning on visiting one of the national parks where single-use plastic is restricted.
This practice will help you contribute to sustainable tourism and keep Costa Rica green. It’s also worth mentioning that many metal water bottles keep water cool for long periods of time, which is something you’ll appreciate 30 minutes into a hike on a hot day!
Camino Travel’s Dedication to Sustainability
Camino Travel has a policy of working with hotels, tours, and other tourism providers who enable the use of refillable bottles whenever possible. This includes often providing refillable bottles and refilling stations.
We’re so happy to see Costa Rica stepping closer each year to complete sustainability. We can only hope that more and more countries follow suit and make the environment a priority in years to come.