This was a hot topic for discussion at the Break Free from Plastic Initiative held Tuesday in Manila, where it was revealed that Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestle are among the companies that contribute the most to ocean-pollution via single-use plastics. Back in August 2017, Costa Rica announced its goal of completely eradicating single-use plastic by 2021, thereby becoming the first country in the world to do so. Participants in Manila took note – and hopefully were inspired by Costa Rica’s commitment to cleaning up both its oceans and environment, leading the world in this endeavor.
Plastic production worldwide has reached over 320 metric tons per year and is expected to grow by 40 percent over the next decade, which will exponentially increase the release of greenhouse gases, as 90 percent of plastics are produced from fossil fuels and pollutants. These gases have been shown to be damaging to the health of both animals and humans. Von Henderson, Global Coordinator of Break Free from Plastic, explained the hazard, “People are accumulating phthalates and endocrine-disrupting chemicals in their bloodstreams through exposure to plastics. And finally, tax-paying citizens end up shouldering the burden and massive costs associated with the management and disposal of plastic.”
Costa Rica has chosen to begin the battle against single-use plastics: disposable bags, cups, straws, cutlery, and bottles, calling for both individuals and businesses to diminish, or eliminate their use. These items are used for a few minutes, but they take hundreds of years to decompose in nature.

Since 1950, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced and most are still present in the environment – mainly in oceans – only 9 percent has been properly recycled. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
Break Free from Plastic has helped clear the coasts of 42 countries, collecting and properly recycling all plastics found there. Of the 187,000 pieces of plastic collected, 85 percent were found to have been discarded from products by Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestle. Commented Von Henderson, “The companies have a choice to make. They can be part of the problem or they can be part of the solution. If they continue the use of problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging they are just encouraging more production and more pollution.”
Chemistry students at the University of Costa Rica have created an alternative to plastics made from a cellulose acetate, which is plant-based, made from bananas, and which disintegrates within 18 months.
Also vital to the anti-single plastic use campaign in Costa Rica was the heart-breaking video in 2015 of an Olive Ridley turtle found off the coast of Costa Rica with a plastic straw lodged in its nose, which became the poster child for eliminating single-use plastics.
Costa Rica is indeed leading the charge in this battle.