[38] Antofagasta – Pearl of the North

‘Save tomorrow, start today,’ says the shopping bag of a woman walking out the supermarket in Antofagasta. There are no plastic bags in the Jumbo supermarket, nor in Tottus. The second biggest city of Chili decided on January 1st2018 to ban the plastic bag.

Antofagasta is named The Pearl of the North, to her historic and economic value for the country. Nevertheless, the last years, its reputation was drowned by waste, until now.The Pearl of the North is cleaning up its reputation by setting a ban on plastic bags, and the Pearl received a national echo, resulting in a nation-wide ban of plastic bags. The first which will be really implemented in South-America, Costa Rica already made the first similar pledge of the entire continent.


Blame the Plastic

The Catholic University of the North (UCN) did research to the quality of the beaches in Chile and nominated Antofagasta as the most polluted ones; the national average was about 2.2 units of waste per square meter, whereas Antofagasta counted for 12.96. Analyses – even of the tummies of death birds – appointed plastic as the one to blame. Hence, plastic will be banned.

Urgency is at play, since the population of the city doubled the last decade, due to the economic growth of mining industry (coper and nitrates), and the harbour. Moreover, the city has the highest GDP per capita in Chile.


‘Prohibited to swim, contaminated beach,’ says a sign on one of the artificial beaches of the Pearl. National beach cleaning projects result in the collection of about 60ton of waste a year. Therefore, some localities already introduced bans on plastic bags; additionally, the national government implemented the Recycling law, making the producers responsible for the collection and recycling of their products after the end-of-lifetime.

Now, the local ban gets a national echo, in a national plastic bag ban, which must prevent the actual use of 3 billions of plastic bag a year.

For my Flemish/Dutch readers, my article got published here.


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