Commendable pledges from the G7 environment meeting

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), we see, has established a hotline to receive comments and queries on the recently announced ban on single-use plastic bags, styrofoam and plastic straws, which the Government has said will take effect on January 1, 2019.

In addition to the hotline, which NEPA says will be open 10:00 am — 3:00 pm on weekdays, the agency has set up an e-mail address,policyonplasticban@nepa.gov.jm, to which the public can submit comments, suggestions and queries.

The agency is also encouraging manufacturers and other impacted stakeholders to use both dedicated channels “to present their queries regarding the exemption application process”.

This is a most commendable move by NEPA and should, hopefully, set the stage for a smoother transition to the new regime next January.

The development also complements decisions taken at the recent G7 meeting of environment ministers in Canada, particularly as they relate to addressing the problem of marine plastic litter.

In what they have termed the G7 Innovation Challenge, the ministers agreed to “incentivise the development of innovative social or technological solutions for a more sustainable management of plastics throughout their life cycle in order to increase resource efficiency and to reduce marine plastic pollution”.

That, they said, will require countries to find “innovative ways to enhance waste management of plastics that may become marine litter”.

Among the specific objectives listed to encourage innovation are the development of new product designs and management processes to increase resource efficiency and the durability, reusability and recyclability of plastic products, in particular those that are not currently recycled; support for technologies to repair, refurbish, and remanufacture plastic products; development and use of more sustainable plastics and environmentally sound alternatives; developing solutions that reduce microplastics in products and reduce, by design, unintentional release of microplastics by wear and tear of products during their use.

In addition, the ministers agreed that major source countries would receive assistance in the management of waste “in a manner that is cost-effective and transferable in order to prevent plastics from entering the environment”.

They also committed to promoting technologies to improve collection and facilitate recycling or recovery of single-use plastics, especially among remote and small island developing states.

Furthermore, and probably one of the more significant commitments for us in the Caribbean, is to “strengthen measures to prevent plastics entering the sea from fishing (including ghost gear) and shipping, and to ensure adequate reception facilities in ports to collect and manage the waste from ships and facility users”.

These are all commendable pledges which, we hope, will transcend words placed on paper. For, as we have stated repeatedly in this space, inability to manage waste, particularly plastic, places our country and indeed the global environment at great risk.

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