The Galapagos Islands, being a fragile and protected area, require strong and solid measures to safeguard its ecosystems and habitats. The islands play a crucial role in ocean-related environmental issues due to their isolation, fragility, and exposure to large and complex ocean currents. The natural oceanographic setting of the Galapagos Islands has created a privileged evolutionary scenario, which is why so many endemic species are found here. Ironically, these same unique conditions are responsible for bringing in floating debris from all directions in the Pacific Ocean. While regular coastal cleanup efforts exist, nothing prevents the indomitable action of ocean currents. What is in fact needed is a more holistic approach to our dependency on plastic, and there is no time like the present to begin taking action.
The local Government Council of the Galapagos Province, supported by the Special Law of the Galapagos Regime, the Ministry of the Environment, and the Constitution of Ecuador, with the endorsement of other organisations like the Galapagos National Park Service, the Charles Darwin Research Station, the Ecuadorian Navy, and local social movements, have signed a decree in order to eliminate the usage of certain plastic products in the Galapagos Islands. This decree is being applied gradually, and requires different promotional efforts, as well as reinforcement campaigns, in order to achieve its global intention. This ordinance was signed on 22nd May 2018 and is no longer just a recommended strategy. It has now become a restrictive ordinance based on two pillars:
o The sales, distribution, or storing of any items mentioned in the Council ordinance is absolutely prohibited.
o The local ordinance applies to all residents and visitors to the Galapagos Province, regardless of their whereabouts or activities within the archipelago.
As per the calendar of plastic-product restrictions, the following items are prohibited in the territory of the Galapagos Province as of these dates:
1. Plastic straws of any kind, shape or size: 22nd May 2018. Alternatives to this product are available as merchandise and include metal and thick-paper straws. Quite naturally, doing without a straw is the best option.
2. Plastic bags with handles: 21st June 2018. Alternatives to this product are reusable bags, paper bags, etc.
3. All Styrofoam utensils: 21st July 2018. Alternatives include reusable containers, biodegradable containers, etc.
4. Plastic bottles: 21st August 2018. The alternative is using refillable water bottles.
Even prior to this change in law, we at Metropolitan Touring had already taken specific measures to limit plastic use on board our vessels, as well as at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. We never used Styrofoam containers, relying instead on reusable containers. Additionally, since 2015, all of our Galapagos guests have been provided with a take-home refillable water bottle in order to avoid using disposable plastic bottles. Finally, starting at the beginning of 2018, we started using non-plastic straws. Our straws are made of post-consumer recycled paper content, and are 100% biodegradable.
Henceforth, not only will we adhere to the new rules, we plan to adopt new, more rigorous standards. We apologise in advance if going without reusable plastics proves to be a challenge, but we know that all together, we can prioritise the protection of the environment. Please do not hesitate to ask us for additional details. We thank you for your commitment to helping us seek independence from plastics.
Source: Metropolitan Touring Inform