Rincón is the first municipality in Puerto Rico to enact legislation against the distribution of plastic bags at retail establishments, which the city seeks to eliminate by February 2015. Through education and enforcement, the city hopes to reduce landfill waste, marine pollution, and litter, which is just one step in a greater initiative to turn Rincón into a “Zero Waste City.”

Leading up to February 2015, when fines begin for noncompliant stores, Rincón will deploy an educational plan targeted towards community members, schools, and businesses. Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center and the PRRP will assist Rincón in promoting these educational activities.

Businesses will incur fines upward of $500 for a fourth and final violation, with fines of $50 per day thereafter if plastic bag use is not discontinued. Recycled paper bags will be available to the consumer at 15 cents per bag, though reusable bags are preferred and encouraged.

Money collected through fines will be used to help fund further environmental projects, including Rincón’s Stormwater Management Program and Recycling Program.

“We are working hard together with environmental agencies, private industry and local organizations for protection and understand that this is one of many steps to make Rincón a model city in terms of protecting our natural resources and our environment,” said Rincón Mayor Carlos López Bonilla.

Governmental and community organizations that have provided support for the initiative include the Environmental Quality Board, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, Solid Waste Authority, the Surfrider Foundation, the Tourism Company, Zero Waste Puerto Rico, Axiomatic, Industry for the Blind, and some members of the Puerto Rico Recycling Partnership.

More information can be found on the city’s website at www.proyecto-verde.org