Mr Mahfood raises a solid point

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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We welcome the Government's announcement of a ban on the use of certain plastic carriers, including what are colloquially referred to as “scandal bags”, as well drinking straws, and polystyrene foam, commonly called styrofoam, starting next January.

However, we cannot ignore the point raised by Mr William Mahfood, head the Wisynco Group, that the issue of solid waste management carries equal weight.

According to Mr Mahfood, Jamaica has a national solid waste crisis and the Government, in trying to resolve the issue, “is plugging some small holes rather than dealing with the bigger issue, which is the solid waste”.

No one can deny that solid waste management is a massive problem in this country, one that the authorities, over many years, have failed to deal with decisively.

Earlier this year Mr Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, pointed out that the country needs an integrated approach to waste management and, more specifically, plastic waste.

Minister Vaz made the comment while publicising the Government's Plastics Minimisation Project which, he explained, is aimed at enhancing the country's capacity to implement integrated waste management activities that strengthen the policy and legislative framework to reduce and manage plastic marine litter from land-based activities in an environmentally sound manner.

It is a project that we support and, again, urge all Jamaicans to do likewise. For as Mr Vaz pointed out yesterday while announcing the new policy on plastics, Jamaica's vulnerability to marine plastic litter is even greater, given the magnitude of the problem, which can have significant negative impact on sectors such as tourism and fisheries, which are critical to our economic growth and development.

It is no secret that improperly disposed plastic ends up in drains, gullies and waterways after heavy rains, contributing to flooding, and ultimately, damage to life and property.

Earlier this year, the United Nations (UN) released stunning data showing how human beings are choking the world on trash.

Up to five trillion grocery bags are used each year, the UN said, and, at current levels, the Earth could be awash with 12 billion tonnes of plastic trash by the middle of the century.

According to Mr Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment, the world's oceans “have been used as a dumping ground, choking marine life and transforming some marine areas into a plastic soup”.

Probably the most alarming information shared by Mr Solheim was that plastic waste is finding its way into the foods we eat because the waste is being consumed by livestock.

Equally frightening was UN Secretary General António Guterres's warning that if the present trends continue, by 2050 the world's oceans “will have more plastic than fish”, because every year more than eight million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the oceans.

In response to the plastic crisis, a number of countries, we note, have imposed taxes, bans and technological innovation to restrict the production and consumption of plastic bags.

The ban announced yesterday, therefore, was not unexpected. We now need, as Mr Mahfood points out, to deal with the broader issue of effective solid waste management.

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