In my corner of Panama, the new ban on plastic bags appears to be a success.
The ban’s 1st day was just 5 days ago, July 20th.
On that morning, I purchased a few items at Supermercado Puerto Armuelles.
Normally, my items would have been bagged in plastic in a blink of an eye.
That morning the cashier just let them sit on the counter.
Suddenly remembering the new rule, I grabbed my few items and left.
Learn more about the new plastic bag ban and Panama’s many efforts to be more green here.
People Embrace Reusable Bags
Later that same day, I shopped at our Romero (a national chain of grocery stores.) Walking around the store I was surprised at how many people had remembered to bring reusable bags from home. One woman was even filling her’s up as she shopped.
Noticing that, I went to my car and grabbed my bags. (Luckily my husband had thought ahead and stashed some there.)
Romero’s is turning green
When I returned to Romero a couple of days later, they had displays explaining your bag options (see photo).
So no worries, if you forget to bring your own grocery bags you have options. At least at Romero’s.
At Romero, if you forget your bag, you have 3 options:
- Biodegradable plastic bag- 5 cents
- Green-colored reusable bag – 25 cents
- Cardboard box – free
Before the law went into effect, Romero was selling an assortment of reusable bags. My favorite has a watermelon design. I bought 2. I think they are $2 each. Romero still sells the “watermelon” bags, but not in the checkout area.
Other Grocery Stores & Reusable Bags
I went to a few other stores to find out about their bag situation.
Supermercado Puerto Armuelles. On July 25th, I went back to Supermercado Puerto Armuelles, our mid-size and popular grocery store. It was now offering 2 sizes of their branded disposable bags for 50 and 75 cents, depending upon size. (see photo).
Super Centro Baru, a nearby and smaller grocery store, also offers Supermercado Puerto Armuelles bags for sale and at the same price. That is the only bag option Super Centro Baru offers.
According to the cashier, the 2 stores are not owned by the same people, they are associates.
Disney. I also visited nearby Disney, one of Puerto’s long-time grocery stores. Disney offers zero bag options. The women in line with me had brought one of Romero’s green-colored reusable bags with her.
However, if you forget to bring your bag to Disney, you can buy one at the stall across the street from it. The stall offers bags ranging from $1 to $3 (see photo).
Produce stands still seem to use plastic bags (see photos), but seemingly not the type that are banned.
FYI: The new law did not ban all plastic bags, just single-use polyethylene plastic bags. Polyethylene is what those ubiquitous “T-shirt” plastic bags that most grocery stores use are made from.
The clear bags I see produce stands using are made of polypropylene. You can tell because polypropylene bags are clear, polyethylene bags are translucent.
Given how they are everywhere, it seems incredible that those T-shirt plastic bags were only invented in the early 60’s.
I bought fruit and veggies on July 20th, and it was put in a large plastic mesh bag. Most likely due to the size and weight of cantaloupe and watermelon I purchased.
A few days later I bought a pineapple from the same stand. They put it in a clear plastic bag. (see photo)
They bagged my pineapple immediately, without asking. I definitely did not need a bag for my solitary pineapple.
A gentleman who was buying some veggies at the same time had brought his own small reusable bag. However, the vendors still put his veggies in a clear plastic bag and then put that bag into the reusable bag he had brought with him. As I mentioned, I believe these clear plastic bags are not banned by the law.
Will All Plastic Bag Use Decrease?
Perhaps over time, the automatic action of bagging produce in plastic will diminish as vendors get used to people bringing their own bags.
It seems that the people and government of Panama are increasing embracing environmentalism.
Perhaps the effect of the new plastic bag law will far exceed its goal of reducing plastic consumption by 20% across Panama.