On May 27, Hernán Dario Urrea Castaño, mayor of Guatapé, Antioquia ratified an agreement to outlaw the reuse or sales of polystyrene, wax paper, plastic straws, glasses or coffee stirrers. Guatapé is a small town approximately 2 hours outside of Medellín that sits on the shore of the Guatapé reservoir, and adjacent to El Peñon de Guatapé, a granite batholith that attracts a constant stream of domestic and foreign tourists.
The project started last year with an attempt to gain consensus of local merchants and participants in the tourism sector. Generally, says Urrea speaking with Medellin based newspaper El Colombiano, the reception has been positive to the new ordinances.
According to Guatapé’s secretary of the environment Dario Mesa, the town receives over a million visitors each year. Last year the health department processed 1,372 tons of solid waste, and 25% of that, or 343 tons was polystyrene and single-use plastics. “A tourist comes and buys a coffee or glass of ice and a plastic stirrer. That takes no more than 10 minutes to consume, but more than 500 years to decompose,” he said. “It’s also a matter of health. Many hot foods can melt and stick to these polymers, and this can have effects on the body.”
One local merchant told the paper that on a holiday weekend she might sell between 2,000 to 4,000 units of polystyrene or other plastic packaging items. The paper indicated that in conversations with local merchants the measures were not generating controversy or significant resistance.