9 JUNE, 2022

ABC of the new law on single-use plastics

On June 1, 2022, Senate plenary approved the bill that gradually reduces the production and consumption of some single-use plastic products, which must be gradually replaced by goods made of sustainable materials.


With this approval, the four necessary debates are completed (two in the House and two in the Senate), which a project or proposal formulated and discussed in Congress must undergo, to decide whether it should become a new law for the country.

All that remains to pass this new law is that the President of the Republic must state whether he agrees with its content and confirm that public entities can comply with the new responsibilities that this project gives them.

What does it imply?

There are 14 products to be gradually replaced:

Within two years, after the president enacts the Law, the bags that are delivered at the payment points will be prohibited, as well as those used to pack magazines, newspapers, bills or clothes delivered to laundries. Similarly, rolls of empty bags, which are offered in stores, especially for carrying food, will be banned. The same applies to mixers and straws, plastic balloon holders and cotton swab holders.

For other single-use plastics included in this new regulation, the ban will begin to operate in eight years.  Among them are: containers, sheets and packaging used to carry liquids and non-prepackaged foods for immediate consumption and for homes; also disposable plates, cups and cutlery; also included are confetti, tablecloths and streamers, dental floss handles and packaging and containers for fruit commercialization, tubers with peel, aromatic herbs, vegetables and fresh mushrooms, as well as labels or any distinctive feature that is fixed on vegetables.


The process of consensus among congressmen, public entities, such as the Ministries of Environment or Industry, and members of plastic industry guild led to establish some exceptions to the above-mentioned prohibitions and to adjust the term in which the measures will start to apply. This was done in view of health and other considerations such as, for example, the availability and environmental impacts of the materials suggested as substitutes.

These exceptions include, among others, plastics used for medical purposes for hygienic reasons, those used to store chemicals or hazardous waste that pose a risk to health, those made with 100% recycled plastic raw material from domestic post-consumer material, those containing liquids and beverages of animal origin, such as milk, and those that are packaging for products that are part of the market basket, such as rice or grains (except fruits, vegetables or tea).

The non-banning of plastics used to package goods of the market basket, such as grains and liquids, was discussed with companies that are part of the industry and that had concerns that were taken into account in the regulation. Acoplasticos, for example, had stated that preventing the use of such packaging could affect the quality and safety of food and beverages, which could affect the health of consumers and increase the waste of these food products.

Additionally, Plastilene Group had been arguing that flexible plastics used to protect rice, sugar or milk increase their shelf life up to 5 times longer than what is achieved with other types of packaging. “They are highly recyclable, low-cost materials that have low environmental impacts compared to their substitutes. Carbon footprint can be one third of that of their substitutes, water consumption can be one fifth.”

These reasons were taken into account for not including this type of packaging among the bans.


The draft bill shows a series of incentives that effectively help to replace single-use plastic with more sustainable alternatives. Among them, it mentions the financing of funds for research, technological development and innovation for the reduction of this type of plastic. There is also mention of economic support for small or medium-sized national producers or farmers’ organizations that produce biodegradable packaging that reuses organic waste from agriculture. Credit lines are included to favor projects creation aligned with circular economy strategies.

Public entities that acquire goods or develop works that may incorporate elements or inputs made with plastic wood or other elements derived from materials from national recycling sources must establish a minimum score of 5% of the points assignable in the qualification of proposals, in their purchases or bids, for whoever offers to acquire a greater proportion of products or inputs of this type.

In the case of the production of this plastic wood and other elements derived from materials from domestic recycling sources, specific measures were established, such as low-interest credit lines, the aforementioned incentive in public procurement, and the strengthening of technical standards for the development of these materials.

Although this is a positive measure, several of the actors of the plastics industry expressed their concern about the inclusion, for these incentives, of materials such as polyaluminum, which belongs to a different sector, associated to metals issue, which would merit a discussion and an independent standard.

Working together

On the other hand, several of the articles indicate that it is necessary to work with civil society and companies to implement some of the measures contemplated in said law.

In other words, there is a public-private work process. For Plastilene Group this will be a very valuable exercise and a challenge that allows closing gaps between what is built as legislation and regulation and what is done in the companies that are part of the plastic sector. For example, Article 4 states that, within 12 months, the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development must regulate the characteristics of the products that will replace the single-use plastics that will be banned. For this regulation process, it is explicitly stated that the Ministry must guarantee effective citizen participation.

Likewise, the project refers to an agreement between the Government, companies and workers to define labor and entrepreneurial alternatives to mitigate the possible socioeconomic impacts derived from the application of this new law.

The construction of the National Single-Use Plastic Substitution Policy, mentioned in Article 7, must take into account the effective participation of the public sector, the private sector and civil society.

This policy must have an action plan that includes voluntary commitments from actors such as municipalities, companies, unions and organizations and must explicitly contain the mechanisms for consultation with the private sector.

Another topic to be discussed will be the Plan for Productive Reconversion and Labor Adaptation aimed at facilitating the updating of job training and the productive, technological and commercial transition of those currently working in activities associated with single-use plastics, which will be banned.

Finally, attention has been drawn to the need to move forward, not only through bans, but in increasing the responsibility of actors who misuse or poorly dispose of waste, which prevents the consolidation of circular economy.

“Single-use plastic is not recycled today because we as citizens are not developing the practices of separation at the source and delivery to the recycling chains for this to happen, even today there are recycling and transformation industries of this plastic that work at less than 30% of capacity and are urged to receive this plastic that today is called single-use,” says CEMPRE, Business Commitment to Recycling.

The association also points out that the infrastructure for the collection and disposal of waste in cities and municipalities is still insufficient and incipient. Thus, these materials cannot be used in productive chains for their effective transformation.

Given this scenario, it is positive that the law includes some provisions on the public sanitation service to increase the rates of plastic waste utilization, emphasizing the formalization and participation of organizations of recyclers. The implementation in municipalities and districts of strategies promoting separation at the source and national government support for the fulfillment of these objectives is also a good idea.