Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a bill Wednesday that prohibits the sale of single-use plastic bags in 102 coastal villages and towns in a bid to stop the build-up of ocean plastic and to "[take] care of our marine ecosystems."
Businesses found using and distributing plastic bags could face a US$300 fine, Telesur reported about the legislation.
In addition to banning plastic bags, the Chilean government plans to create 1.6 million square kilometers of marine conservation areas by 2018, AFP reported. The bill also welcomes non-coastal areas to join in the program to restrict or eliminate plastic bags.
"Our fish are dying from plastics ingestion or strangulation—it's a task in which everyone must collaborate," Bachelet said in a speech at the beach resort city of Pichilemu.
Con el proyecto #chaobolsasplásticas, todas las comunas costeras se sumarán a conservación de los océanos. Un mar l… https://t.co/xfZzJeuIID— Michelle Bachelet (@Michelle Bachelet)1508939647.0
According to the Environment Ministry (via Bloomberg BNA), Chile goes through more than 3.4 billion plastic bags per year, with 97 percent ending up in landfills, becoming illegally dumped, or ending up in oceans.
"We will ... become the first country in the Americas to implement a law of this type and we call on other countries to assume this responsibility," Bachelet said last month at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Bloomberg BNA also noted that 50 of Chile's 345 municipal districts have already regulated plastic bag usage to some degree, including banning shops from providing plastic bags, limiting the number of bags a customer can receive, or encouraging stores to switch to reusable bags.
Environmental advocates praised the ban. "We hope that parliamentarians will support this initiative which is good for the country," said Ricardo Bosshard, the head of World Wildlife Fund Chile.
On social media, many cheered the move with the hashtag #chaobolsasplásticas, or "bye plastic bags."
Enrique Peña Nieto, the President of Mexico, thanked Bachelet for her work and said that Mexico will join Chile in the effort to protect the biodiversity of our seas.
Gracias Presidenta @mbachelet. México se suma al esfuerzo de otros países, como Chile, para proteger la biodiversidad de nuestros mares.— Enrique Peña Nieto (@Enrique Peña Nieto)1508859944.0
Erik Solheim, the head of the United Nations Environment Program tweeted, "Great news from Chile! A ban plastic bags in over 100 coastal areas!"
Great news from Chile! A ban plastic bags in over 100 coastal areas! #CleanSeas https://t.co/LUmw5GFcit https://t.co/81GbXHmruL— Erik Solheim (@Erik Solheim)1509010395.0
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.