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46 firms cited for plastic ban breaches

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

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Five months after the Government imposed a ban on the use, distribution, and manufacturing of specified single-use plastic carrier bags, 46 establishments have been served compliance notices for various breaches of the prohibition.

The Jamaica Observer has learnt that the entities have been served for breaches of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (plastic packaging materials prohibitions) through enforcement activities conducted in four parishes.

The most breaches were found in St James, where 21 notices were issued; followed by St Andrew with 11; Manchester with eight; and St Ann, where six notices were served.

The establishments, which ranged from large to small commercial operations, were cited for distribution of single-use plastic bags and straws.

In an Observer interview, minister with responsibility for the environment Daryl Vaz said the implementation of the policy is now fully in effect, and that there is no more leeway, as was allowed at the start of the ban in January, to allow the public to acclimatise, and give commercial entities time to use remaining stocks of the banned products.

He stressed that enforcement and prosecutions have therefore now begun.

“At this stage, there is definitely zero tolerance... five months into it, so everybody should be fully okay. All who had issues in terms of getting alternative packaging, the necessary leeway was given for that and therefore there is no excuse for non-compliance,” Vaz told the Observer.

On January 1, the ban was imposed on the importation, manufacture, distribution and use of single-use plastic carrier bags below 25 gallon capacity — commonly called scandal bags and which were used primarily in the retail and wholesale sectors. Plastic bags used to maintain public health standards, such as those used to package raw meats, poultry, and bread, are exempted from the ban.

Effective January 2020, the importation and manufacture of plastic drinking straws, and polystyrene foam containers, commonly called styrofoam, will also be outlawed.

Meanwhile, in support of the enforcement and compliance measures, the Bureau of Standards Jamaica has reportedly responded to 52 requests for dimension and thickness on plastic bags since the ban started in January. Twenty-four of those requests came directly from importers and manufacturers, and 28 from the Natural Conservation and Resources Authority.

The Observer was also reliably informed that, as of March 19, Jamaica Customs — a critical organ of the multi-agency approach to the ban — detained 507 cartons consisting of 1.014 million plastic bags with a CIF value of US$1,774.50 with duties amounting to $105,071.47.

Customs has also begun disaggregating the tariff codes to capture items affected by the ban.

At the official start of the ban, Vaz had explained that although $850 million worth of plastic bags had been imported up to September 2018, the Government was unable to ascertain how much of that included banned bags, as the tariff codes for these items are generic.

Additionally, Customs has increased its use of risk-management strategies to identify and monitor importers of products affected by the ban, and effected greater scrutiny of declarations and supporting invoices to ensure that items are properly described.

At the same time, Vaz noted that the Government is still working through the announced compensation mechanism for manufacturers and distributors with the stakeholders.

Vaz pointed out that, as it was at the start of the ban, there has been heavy support for the policy. “It's the first controversial policy that a Government has implemented that has gotten that level of support, and it shows the level of maturity of the population,” he stated.

He said that although the ban is now fully in effect, education and awareness activities are continuing, in order to iron out any remaining kinks.


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