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Environment Ministry offers positive assessment of law prohibiting plastic bags and announces new measures designed to reduce and recycle packaging

Minister Carolina Schmidt explained that 2.2 billion fewer plastic bags were distributed in Chile during the first year the law was in force.

Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt offered a positive assessment of the first year of enforcement of the law banning the distribution of plastic bags. She explained that during this period 2.2 billion fewer plastic bags were distributed in Chile, thus reducing waste.

“The Chilean people chose this law as the best public policy of 2018 because it led to a very important change in habits. We had thought that this was impossible to achieve, but in a short period of time this legislation proved otherwise”, said Minister Schmidt.

She added, “A total of 2.2 billion fewer plastic bags were distributed during this period. If we were to place them side by side, they would stretch the distance between Arica and Punta Arenas 240 times. These positive figures will increase when this law is expanded to include small businesses and with the implementation of the law on Extended Producer Responsibility”.

Minister Schmidt emphasized that this law helped raise awareness among Chileans of the need to recycle, reuse and consume responsibly, as the sum of small actions can make a difference.

The law banning the distribution of plastic bags in shops across the country went into force on August 3, 2018, and was applied gradually. Over the first six months, a maximum of two bags per client was allowed, but by February of this year, they were banned in supermarkets and retail shops. Small businesses can provide a maximum of two bags until August 2020. 

The Minister explained that the implementation of the law on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is under way. This legislation requires companies to take responsibility for managing the waste they generate which, for example, will lead to the reduction and recycling of packaging of products for everyday use that are sold in supermarkets and shops in general.

For containers and packaging, EPR goals will allow Chile to improve from the current 12.5% household recycling rate for containers and packaging to 60% by 2030. The latter number is similar to levels observed in developed countries. The preliminary draft of the bill establishes specific targets for each material: cardboard containers for liquids (60%), metal (55%), paper and cardboard (70%), plastic (45%), and glass (65%). The target for waste from industrial containers and packaging will be 70%”. 

In order to reach these levels, Minister Schmidt said that a residential collection program will be designed to gather recyclable waste door to door. Over time, this will eliminate the need for residents to bring their items to a local waste collection site.

Moreover, the bill will encourage producers to modify how they market their products (in returnable bottles, concentrates and others) with the goal of reducing the amount of materials used to sell their products.

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