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Gov't senator urges sustained private sector support for plastic ban

Sunday, November 17, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Business interests are being encouraged to continue supporting the Government as it embarks on the second phase of the ban on specific categories of plastic packaging material, which ultimately aims to protect the environment.

The call came from Government Senator, Matthew Samuda, as he opened the 2019/20 State of the Nation Debate during Friday's (November 15) sitting of the Upper House.

He noted that the companies involved in the use, importation, manufacture and distribution of the material can greatly “assist the Government in ensuring that this policy is implemented seamlessly, and that we get it right”.

“I look forward to their support and partnership in getting this policy right… as we seek to provide for and protect the Jamaican environment for our children and grandchildren,” he said.

The ban, which was first proposed by Samuda through a Private Member's Motion in 2016, is on the importation, manufacture, distribution and use of single-use plastic bags, commonly referred to as “scandal bags”; expanded polystyrene foam (styrofoam); and plastic drinking straws.

The first phase of the initiative, which began in January this year, mainly focused on curtailing the importation of these items.

The second phase is scheduled to begin on January 1, 2020, when a complete ban on Styrofoam comes into effect.

Additionally, the importation of plastic straws attached to juice boxes and drink pouches will be banned as at January 1, 2021.

Samuda said he is aware of comments from sections of society, including the private sector, relating to a request for a delay in the implementation of the second phase of the ban.

He stressed, however, that he has “no intention of supporting… any such request”.

Samuda pointed out that the process to institute the ban took three years, emphasising that “the challenges faced by the nation are three years more mature and that much harder to correct”.

Citing a 2018 United Nations (UN) 'State of Plastics' report, Samuda highlighted the harmful effects of expanded polystyrene foam that contains carcinogens, which are cancer-causing substances.

He also noted that the UN has revised the projected biodegradability timeline for expanded polystyrene foam from 450 years to 1,000 years.

“It means that any container, lunch box or cup that we have ever used in this country with styrofoam, will be around long after we are not around. It means that it will be around for upwards of 1,000 years. So anything but implementing the policy in line with the dates previously determined, would be a retrograde step,” Samuda emphasised.

—JIS


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