As we move into phase three of the single-use plastic ban
Minister of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, Pearnel Charles Jr

Even as people everywhere struggle to deal with the devastating consequences of COVID-19, there is consensus among those who should know that, while it may take longer than was initially projected, this pandemic will pass.

But as scientists keep warning, health crises such as that posed by COVID-19 are exceeded in terms of threat to life as we know it by man-made environmental degradation.

Hence, global optimism is triggered by the return of the USA to a multi-lateral approach to protecting the environment in the wake of the Joe Biden Administration taking the reins in Washington.

In Jamaica, this newspaper has applauded environmentally-friendly measures taken by national leadership down the years.

We were especially pleased with the ban on single-use plastics implemented in 2019, which, looking back, has probably gone better than many expected.

In this space, in June 2018, we pointed Jamaicans to a UN report that up to five trillion plastic grocery bags were being used each year, and that if the trend continued planet Earth could be awash with 12 billion tonnes of plastic trash by the middle of the century.

The UN reported then that the world's oceans “have been used as a dumping ground, choking marine life and transforming some marine areas into a plastic soup”.

Jamaicans are well used to the effects of plastic, having seen at first hand piles of such materials 'uglifying' their surroundings; clogging drains, gullies, etc, which in turn trigger floods and provide breeding grounds for mosquito-borne diseases; as well as endangering fish and other life in the sea, rivers, and wetlands.

Hence our enthusiasm that the Government is gearing up to implement a third phase of the ban on single-use plastics, come June.

We are told by the Government's information agency, the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), that: “Under phase three... the import, manufacture, distribution, and use, in commercial quantities, of single-use plastic bags of dimensions not exceeding 24”x 24” (610mm X 610mm), and thickness of 2.5 mils (0.06mm), as well as straws attached to or forming part of the packaging of juice boxes and drink pouches are banned.”

Minister with responsibility for environment and climate change Mr Pearnel Charles Jr is quoted by JIS as saying that. in the period until the third phase trips in, businesses “...should be making all the necessary adjustments to be compliant...”

According to Mr Charles, by June, “It is expected that the private sector will deplete/replace all affected products currently circulated in the trade and ensure that their production processes are retrofitted, as appropriate, to facilitate compliance with the provisions of the ban.”

The minister said the Government will ramp up public education and awareness to encourage compliance.

And, according to JIS, there was a warning that “the Government intends to institute prosecutions in the parish courts for all persons found in breach of the orders...”

We are pleased that up to now the Government has implemented the ban on single-use plastic without being unreasonable or draconian.

We feel sure that approach will continue as phase three of the programme comes into being.

Also, of course, business operators and the public must do their part by following the rules.

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