Thursday 14 November, 2019

Ban on plastic bags in Jamaica long overdue, say Environmentalists

Environmentalists are throwing their support behind the pending ban on single use plastic bags, more commonly referred to as ‘scandal bags’ in Jamaica.

However, at least two leading environmentalists have told Loop News that the ban is long overdue with Jamaica lagging behind even countries in the Caribbean in this regard.

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz, who has responsibility for the environment, has said the Government is close to imposing a ban on the commodity.

He said the administration will soon be prohibiting the use of plastic bag in the retail trade.

Vaz was speaking recently in the sectoral debate in the House of Representatives. The impending ban on ‘scandal bags’ will force Jamaicans to use reusable bags whenever they go to the supermarket or wholesale. 

Vaz noted that these single-use plastic bags are not recyclable and have no value beyond their use. But, he said they result in a cost to the broader society each time they are used.

He said specific regulations will be put in place for garbage bags which will include sizes which will be allowed and the mandatory use of the enzymes which make plastics degradable.

Executive Director of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) Suzanne Stanley has welcomed the announcement. However, she told Loop News that she is concerned that there were no specifics including when the ban would take place and whether all plastic bags would be banned.

“As it relates to the announcement about the ban on plastic bags, what I would say is that we really need more information. No details were really given, we don’t know what size bags they’re talking about, if it’s all plastic bags, what kind of timeframe,” Stanley said.

She said more needs to be told about the enforcement strategies that will be used and whether there will be a grace period within which persons will be allowed to modify their behavior so they can comply.

And Stanley also questioned what the public education strategy will be. “All of these things we would need details on. We want more information including when the ban will take effect,” she said.

Despite the lack of information, Stanley said it was great that finally some action is being taken on banning plastic bags. “It should have happened a long time ago, we’re behind many other countries in the world in this regard,” Stanley observed.

For his part, well known environmentalist, Peter Espeut, also said the ban on plastic bags is long overdue.

“We (Jamaica) are very late in this business of banning them,” Espeut told Loop News, while noting that other countries, including in the Caribbean have long banned the use of plastic bags.

“In Antigua for example if you go to the supermarket, there are no plastic bags. You have to take your own bag or they give you a paper bag,” Espeut noted. He said lunches are sold in that country in cardboard containers that are biodegradable.

“Even little Antigua is ahead of us in this regard,” Espeut observed.

“It has been a long time coming that Jamaica would ban the use of plastic bags and I look forward to the day when we’ll also ban certain types of plastic bottles which create the same problem,” Espeut said.

Alternatively, he said the authorities could consider putting in place a deposit return scheme that would “take the plastic bottles out of the garbage and have them reused or cycled.”

“So I support the ban but I say we are late, it’s been a long time coming but I’m happy that it’s finally going to come,” Espeut concluded.

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