Plastic Bags

They use plastic bags in Panama, lots of plastic bags. If you go to the supermarket, chances are many of your purchases will be double bagged, and the bags won’t be full. It’s the same at the produce market. The tomatoes will be in a small bag, and other small items will have their own small bags and then the little bags will be put into bigger bags. If you don’t bring your own bags it won’t be long before you have an extensive bag collection!

But, no more. News came out recently that President Varela signed a law saying supermarkets and retailers have 18 months to make the change to reusable bags. How cool is that! Google Panama plastic bags and you will find quite a few articles like this one.

I have seen reusable bags for sale for quite a while in the supermarkets. El Rey even has a checkout line just for people with reusable bags, and they have some for sale like these.

This makes me think they have been thinking about decreasing the plastic, but this new law is still going to be a dramatic step. It’s normal here for purchases to be put in a plastic bag, and then the bag is stapled closed with the receipt stapled to the outside. I wonder how they are going to handle this security measure. The supermarkets don’t do this because the only thing past the checkouts are the doors. But, most other shops have the cashiers in the back of the store and you have to walk through most of the store to get outside. I’m sure they don’t want you adding anything to your bag along the way.

I’ve been using reusable bags for a long time, and my favorites are Chico Bags. They tuck into a little bundle that you can easily toss in your purse, but unfolded many of them are large enough to hold a lot and are easily slung over your shoulder. I’ve been using mine since before Panama (5+ years) and they are still doing fine. But, they don’t sell them here in Panama. I suppose you could order on line and have them sent here or, as I plan to do, I’ll order them on line and bring them back with me on my next trip to the US. Now, especially with this new law, I think my friends will find them especially useful.

Change is usually a hassle and I’m sure this will be too, but I think it’s a great step in the right direction. People here aren’t always good about trash, and it seems the majority of the trash and litter is plastic bags. If we can decrease the plastic in the landfills and the chances of it getting into our waterways and oceans, this is a really good thing too.

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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8 Responses to Plastic Bags

  1. Laureen says:

    Hooray! Thank you President Varela, for making a great decision! I’d love to see this happen everywhere, including Mexico, where too many plastic bags are used, similar to your description of Panama. Stores here carry reusable bags too, but unless it is mandatory, compliance is not very high. The only place where I see the majority of shoppers carrying reusable bags is at the weekly organic farmer’s market, where we do most of our grocery shopping. One day, maybe it will be mandatory everywhere. We can only hope.


  2. Awesome. Too bad every community in the US hasn’t taken this on. Here is Panama as a country taking this on. A great example for all to follow.


  3. Felipe says:

    Impressive to see Panama evolving in this direction, especially at the national level. My dad was in Belgium in the mid 70’s. You always brought your own bags to the stores. Mexico City has been good about separating organic waste for composting for decades, but still generates way too much plastic. interesting note for us not there. Thank you!


  4. Anonymous says:

    First I have to tell you Kris, how much we love your blogs! We visited Panama two years ago and loved it! The worst part was not being able to meet you and Joel, but we did communicate! Thank you for the tips and recommendations! We’re use a Las Olas brochure as a bookmark.I smile every time I look at it. I digress. We lives in Olympia, WA (Thurston Co) and our county switched to reusable bags a couple of years ago. At first it was hard getting used to the idea because we reused our bags for everything! Unfortunately, enough people don’t and they end up as littler. We have seen a noticeable decrease in trash and what is wrong with that?! As more counties are participating in WA state, stores will offer paper bags for 10 cents or you can buy reusable bags for a nominal fee, There are more expensive and personalized bags available which makes it fun. We love our Seattle Seahawk grocery bags. Go Hawks!


    • California doesn’t have plastic bags either so I’ve been able to see how it works when I visit my daughter there and you are right, after some adjustment and learning to keep bags in the car it works just fine.
      Did we try to meet when I was in Bellevue? I’ll be ther again probably for the whole month of July helping with a new grand baby. I won’t be mobile but if you are in the area maybe we could work something out.


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