Gov't to legislate Deposit Refund Scheme for plastic bottles
Plastic bottles collected for recycling

THE Government is to legislate a Deposit Refund Scheme for plastic bottles by the end of this financial year.

This will boost the effort to improve the country's environmental and waste management thrust.

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator Matthew Samuda gave details during a 'Plastic Forum' held virtually on Tuesday, August 30.

To date, the scheme, which is voluntary, provides a cash refund to consumers who return their plastic bottles after use.

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Senator Matthew Samuda speaks on the management of plastics and the environment during a forum held virtually on Tuesday. Seated is head of the Technical Regulations Unit in the Bureau of Standards Jamaica Phillipa O'Conner Bennett. (Photo: JIS)

"The issue [of proper recycling] is so big that we cannot leave it to those who 'feel' like being good citizens. We will legislate it [and hopefully will] have the votes of the Opposition to support it," the minister said.

He emphasised that this would require collaboration among the Jamaica Customs Agency, National Compliance and Regulatory Authority, Bureau of Standards Jamaica, the National Solid Waste Management Authority, and the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce "to ensure the way we implement it is done seamlessly, causes no disruption to supply and production, and [is] done in a way that does not trigger further inflation".

Senator Samuda argued that, although it has been a "good effort" between the private sector and citizens who use the scheme, there is a need to intensify and expand the management of plastic waste across the island.

"The reality is, 13 per cent of Jamaica's waste is largely plastic — and we know that for the vast majority it is indeed plastic bottles. Waste management [and] the management of plastics cannot continue as is if we're going to be seen as a centre of excellence," he reasoned.

It is against this backdrop that he is proposing a plastic collection competition between Government and Opposition members.

"There is nothing more competitive than politics in the world. I propose that as, a mechanism to help collect significant plastic waste in the environment, we mobilise the political base of both parties and we compete to see who can collect the most," he said.

"That is a way to show the country's maturity and that the political doctrine around environmental protection and management is moving from infancy to maturity. I believe that will send the right signal," the minister added.

Senator Samuda pointed out that as the country moves to improve its environmental and waste management, the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act as well as the Wildlife Protection Act will be amended. The Green Economy Investment Strategy will also be tabled in Parliament.

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