Piu, who became concerned about plastics after leading beach cleanups in the 1990s, says that the next step is to prevent plastic products from getting to the Galapagos Islands in the first place. A recent law bans the distribution or commercialization of plastic drinking straws, disposable plastic shopping bags, styrofoam food containers and dinnerware, and non-returnable bottles of sodas and beers on the islands, though those products are unevenly used.

The Galapagos Governing Council, WWF, and other partners have been spreading the word about the law through an information campaign that involves signs at local airports, piers, and outreach to stores and restaurants. WWF also helped the Galapagos government develop the provincial ordinance regulating the important of single-use plastics and polystyrene and continues to serve as a member of the Plastics Management Committee of the archipelago.

The people of the Galapagos are doing their part to protect their islands and address this global problem too. Local communities and activists have mobilized to institute coastal cleanups and awareness campaigns about plastic use.

But Hannam-Penfold — the researcher — isn’t particularly worried about running out of material to study in the future. After all, the largest amount of plastic waste arrives in the Galapagos on ocean currents from places that have yet to learn these same lessons.

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