Single-use plastics ban by the year 2020

The Nassau Guardian:

The Ministry of Environment and Housing signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation’s (BCCEC) Energy and Environment Committee yesterday focused on the elimination of single-use plastics and styrofoam containers for food and beverage, by 2020.

Some of the items that will be banned in two years will be shopping bags, straws, utensils and styrofoam containers. Minister of Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira said the release of balloons into the atmosphere will eventually be made illegal as well, as those products end up in the oceans as pollutants.

CEO of the BCCEC Edison Sumner said the chamber has been in talks with restaurants, food store owners and distributors who carry plastic products to see how on a “sustained basis” there is minimal impact to their businesses as single-use plastic products are phased out in the next two to three years.

Sumner added that in some cases some businesses will save money as public awareness campaigns on shopping with personal shopping bags and using new, biodegradable materials shifts the culture of plastic shopping bag use.

BCCEC Energy and Environment Committee Chairperson Deborah Deal said yesterday that there are numerous benefits for businesses letting go of single-use plastic bags.

“It’s not like we are going to be making it difficult for people in business, we are actually going to make it easier for you,” she said.

“If you don’t have to buy those 26 million plastic bags per year, that money could go back to staff, it could go to initiatives for your staff, it could go to better products in your store.”

At the BCCEC yesterday several examples of shopping bags were on display, ranging from straw bags to plant-based shopping bags which look like plastic but will not harm the environment when discarded.

Ferreira said plastics have likely entered the Bahamian food chain due to plastic products entering the ocean and being consumed by the fish that are consumed locally.

Sumner said at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, British Prime Minister Theresa May made a commitment to put 61.4 million pounds sterling into Commonwealth states for the elimination of plastics.

Ferreira explained that styrofoam containers can release toxins when hot foods are placed in them. He added that plastics and styrofoam can remain in the environment for 500 years.

“The Bahamas has an exacerbating plastic problem that holds significant economic and environmental costs,” Ferreira said.

“A study conducted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that at least eight million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the world’s oceans each year and will remain there for at least a century. By 2025 it is projected that there will be one ton of plastic for every ton of fish, with plastic trash eventually outweighing fish and biomass.”