Plastic lunch boxes ban timeline stays put
SOME small restaurateurs are pleading with the Government for more time to prepare for the ban on plastic lunch containers, which comes into effect on June 1.
But the Administration is standing firm on its timeline which, it insists, is adequate to allow for the transition to take place.
Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Senator Matthew Samuda made the ban announcement during his presentation in the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate last Friday, but one small restaurant owner said he is far from ready, noting that he was not aware of the decision until this reporter brought it to his attention.
“I am definitely not prepared for that as yet because I haven’t seen anything on the market to suggest otherwise that we can turn to…to fill the gap that the plastic containers will be moving from,” he told the
Jamaica Observer on Monday.
The small restaurateur, who currently uses double-fold plastic lunch boxes in his business, believes he will have issues transitioning in the five-month timeline — even though he plans to comply as a man who is a stickler for principles.
“I am a person that believes in protocol because if you have a Government, it is us that put them there in the first place for them to lead, so they would know what is good and what is bad for the country… I will make that transition once I see [what] will be put in place so that we can eradicate those plastic containers,” he said.
He further questioned what will happen if restaurateurs have no alternative to turn to.
“What is it that we are going to do? Close down the restaurant and go home? Because not everybody is going to come [to the restaurant] and sit down and eat. We are in an economy now where it’s fast-paced; everybody just wants to move and would not have the time to dine in. You cannot force them to sit down and eat because I do not have a box to put it in. And I cannot buy a plate to give them and say, ‘Take this plate and go home with it,’ so we wouldn’t have any business. So, it is now for the Government to put things in place,” he said.
Another small restaurateur, who mainly does take-out and delivery and uses recyclable plastic containers, said while he is aware of other alternatives like paper, he questioned the durability of that option.
“There is no option with paper containers to put away food ….you may get to keep it for the rest of the day but you don’t get to store it; you don’t get to freeze it to reheat it to take to work for the rest of the week,” he said.
He noted, however, that he also plans to comply with the ban, stating, “We don’t have a choice, we don’t have an option“”
“It’s not like our voices will be heard and they will give us some form of special leniency. If they say we have to go to paper, we have to transform to paper. We don’t have a choice. They didn’t give us a choice, they didn’t ask us our opinion before they made the decision,” he said, adding that he wished the Government had consulted with restaurateurs and given them a say in the decision-making process.
But Samuda told the
Observer that he consulted with government stakeholders, which included a review of how the first ban on plastic bags and Styrofoam (polystyrene foam ) in 2019 was implemented.
“We didn’t need as much time as June 1. The only issue that we had in the [previous] implementation was the public education component, so the main reason why we have left it at June 1 is to facilitate the public education campaign to bring the public onboard,” he said.
Samuda further noted that there are two major importers of plastics in the country, and that they were expecting an earlier timeline, “so they have actually been given more time to make their adjustments”.
“The Government has made an intervention in a particular segment of the packaging market because of the deleterious nature of these items to the environment. One should recall that after the Styrofoam ban there was a wave of paper-based alternatives in the market, then people found other alternatives because of a policy gap and exploited it. But, there are paper-based alternatives available all over the place — and I guarantee the market knows how to make the adjustment,” he said.
“There is nothing on my desk that would suggest any additional time to facilitate the transition. We are not, at this time, contemplating any further delays in the next round of this exercise,” he insisted.
The Government had imposed a ban on the importation, manufacture, and distribution of single-use plastic bags, straws and polystyrene, which took effect on January 1, 2019. The impending round of the ban is focusing on microbeads, which are microplastics in personal-care products and different types of lunch boxes which are made of plastic.