Senator Samuda welcomes plastic ban

Thursday, September 20, 2018

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GOVERNMENT Senator Matthew Samuda has welcomed the Government's response to his October 2016 private members' motion which called for a ban on a range of plastic and Styrofoam products.

Earlier this week, the minister responsible for the environment, Daryl Vaz, announced a ban on the importation, manufacture and distribution of three types of plastic/Styrofoam products, effective January 1, 2019.

Senator Samuda said in a statement yesterday that: “this is good news for the current and future generations in Jamaica. I am heartened that the Administration led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness has been decisive and shown the courage to take this decision which is a demonstrable indicator of its firm commitment to putting in place measures to protect our environment.”

He said the ban, which was announced after consultation with stakeholders, “is an indicator that the democratic parliamentary process in Jamaica is not only alive and well but may also be used to effect positive legacy changes especially in relation to how we pursue sustainable development”.

At the same time, chairman of the Wisynco Group, William Mahfood, has argued that there has been very little consultation with stakeholders. He noted in an interview with the Jamaica Observer on Monday that there are at least 3,000 small “cook shops” and restaurants operating around the island, which will be significantly affected. Wisynco is the country's largest producer of Styrofoam and plastic.

Jamaica joins Dominica, the Bahamas, Grenada, and Trinidad which have announced bans this year on a range of plastic bags and Styrofoam products.

Meanwhile, Mahfood yesterday called on the Government to expedite plans to implement a plastic bottle deposit refund scheme, which would encourage more Jamaicans to recycle.

“Under this scheme, every plastic bottle which is manufactured in Jamaica will have a dollar figure attached to it, which will be charged at the point-of-sale and then consumers will have the ability to get back their funds when they return the bottle,” he outlined.

He was speaking on Tuesday at day-two of Engineers' Week, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.

Mahfood has maintained that a ban on plastics is not the answer to the country's solid waste problems which he said requires better management, including proper recycling mechanisms.

The Wisynco boss said a deposit refund system for plastics would help to reduce the large numbers of PET bottles and other items that are being improperly disposed across the country.

“Down the road, I see an environment in which you can go into a supermarket with your plastic bottles, stick it into a machine and you will get a ticket that you will be able to use in the store,” he said.

Mahfood said the plan is to attain an 80 per cent collection rate of all PET materials.

“That will take us some time to build out the infrastructure and develop the whole system effectively. Once we get to that level, there's enough scale and volume there, which will allow us to take that post-consumer waste and convert it either back into new bottles, or reuse it to create other products,” he stated.

Earlier this year, the Government announced that it would spend approximately $75 million, over the next three years to implement a plastic bottle deposit scheme.

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has also said it remains concerned about PET plastic beverage bottles, which make up some 15 per cent of the island's waste stream. JET said that if appropriately designed, the deposit refund scheme would also go a long way in tackling Jamaica's plastic pollution problem.

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