samuda applauds Expedited plastics policy

Associate editor - features

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

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Matthew Samuda, who laid the formal proposal in Parliament in 2016 that the country ban single-use plastics and styrofoam, has applauded the Government for moving with alacrity to effect policy to that end.

Samuda is a senator appointed by the Jamaica Labour Party.

Speaking yesterday at the opening of the Jamaica Recycling Business Symposium, Samuda said he was particularly proud that, in government terms, it “has only taken two years to get to a point where a conversation is about to become policy”.

He was referencing the announcement in May by the minister with responsibility for the Land, environment, climate change and investment in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Daryl Vaz to introduce a deposit scheme for plastic bottles and a full ban of the use of single-use plastic bags in the retail trade.

“In essence, Jamaicans will need to use to reusable bags when they go to the supermarket or wholesale. Specific regulations will be put in place for “garbage bags” which will include the sizes which will be allowed and the mandatory use of the enzymes which make plastics oxo-degradable,” Vaz said in his sectoral presentation to Parliament on May 15.

He didn't say when the actions will take effect, nor did he provide any details about the regulations that will govern how they work. Yesterday, Samuda was mum on those points as well.

“Minister Vaz said it is no longer a matter of if; it is a matter of when,” the senator said.

In spite of the absence of details, Samuda said the move will go a far way in remedying the country's environmental degradation and will complement steps taken internationally, including ratifying the global climate change accord, the Paris Agreement in 2016.

“I've never heard of garbage tourism. I've also never heard of fillet plastic bottle. The fact is that Jamaica is dependent on the blue economy. It is significantly tied to the fortunes of our fishermen, it is significantly tied to our tourist industry...[because] We can't sell a dirty beach.

Asked what he attributed to the relative speed with which his proposal has progressed, Senator Samuda, while not discrediting the influence of international agreements to which the country is party, said it is more a reflection of the country being seized of the gravity of the spate of environmental degradation.

“Government, since 2016, has taken some steps to prevent environmental degradation, including declaring the Cockpit Country boundaries, not commercialising Goat Islands, passing 14 Forestry Orders to protect more forest cover than ever before, and the latest discussion as to how we manage our plastic waste,” he said.

Garbage collection figures from the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) provided some context.

Addressing the symposium, NSWMA spkesman Edson Carr said the agency's Riverton site collects 580,763 tonnes of garbage each year, only 20 per cent of which is plastic.

Yesterday's symposium was the brainchild of social enterprise 360Recycle Manufacturing Ltd in partnership with the US embassy in Kingston. It was staged at the Spanish Court Worthington and coincided with World Environment Day.

The partners said the event, which pulled participation from policymakers, social and economic entrepreneurs and other industry stakeholders, and students, is part of a three-day exchange which will feature Will Sagr, executive director of Southeast Recycling Development Council, leading discussions on the future of waste in Jamaica and the economic impact of the recycling industry.

360Recycle uses recyclable or biodegradable materials such as plastic bottles, newspapers, styrofoam, cardboard, wood and glass to manufacture a range of products, including flower pots, partition boards, kerb walls, blocks, buildings and playground equipment. It is owned and operated by former visual arts teacher Scheed Cole and his wife Keisha.

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