Thu | Jan 21, 2021

Gov’t considers banning plastic replacements to styrofoam

Published:Thursday | November 26, 2020 | 12:14 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Environment Minister Pearnel Charles Jr says the Government is considering an expansion of the ban on some plastics.
Environment Minister Pearnel Charles Jr says the Government is considering an expansion of the ban on some plastics.

Environmentalist Diana McCaulay is calling for an immediate ban as the Government urges suppliers of packaging products to find more eco-friendly alternatives to plastic options that have replaced styrofoam in the food and beverage industry.

Environment Minister Pearnel Charles Jr has indicated to suppliers that the Government was mulling over a ban of these products.

“The Government is also encouraging consumers to be more discerning in their purchases and patronise those companies that provide environmentally friendly or green goods and services,” he said.

The ban on the local manufacture, distribution, and use of expanded polystyrene foam products came into effect on January 1.

In light of the surge in plastic packaging, Charles said that his ministry would be engaging the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service and the Jamaica Customs Agency to explore whether Customs duties could be reduced on environmentally friendly alternatives as an incentive to importers and manufacturers.

But McCaulay is calling for more urgent action from Charles in terms of a ban.

“[I am] delighted that he wants to do it, but he just needs to do it,” she told The Gleaner.

“I’ve heard a succession of ministers since the ‘90s, when we started allowing packaging in plastic, say that they are going to implement a deposit return scheme. That is the number one most effective thing that can get this problem sorted,” McCaulay added.

DEPOSIT FUND SCHEME

Acknowledging that “coastal communities are primarily assaulted by plastic bottles”, Charles said that his ministry was working with the Recycling Partners of Jamaica to advance a deposit refund scheme.

Only about a fifth of the approximately 800 million plastic bottles used in Jamaica each year are collected for recycling.

“Ultimately, the deposit refund scheme is going to be the incentive programme to allow for persons to have some facility for getting employment or revenue while also cleaning up the environment. That should be an instrumental project coming up next year,” the minister said.

He said that he was meeting with local manufacturers to determine whether they are on track to meet the January 2021 implementation of a ban on plastic straws on juice boxes.

Charles stressed that manufacturers should have a fair opportunity to seek alternatives.

“If there are no alternatives, then I think it would be unfair, and as a Government, we’ll have to look on whether if it is instituted, how do we give exemptions, and if it is not instituted, perhaps extend the bid for six months or a year or until there is a proper alternative,” he reasoned.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com