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Plastic ban good for the environment — NEPA

Friday, November 16, 2018

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CEO of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) Peter Knight is pleased with the Government's policy position to impose a ban on specific categories of plastic packaging materials.

“We think it is good for the environment. We are pleased that Senator (Matthew) Samuda was able to move the motion and to get the policy position and to take us to where we are now,” he said at a recent JIS Think Tank.

Starting January 1, 2019, the Government will be imposing a ban on the importation, manufacture, distribution and use of specific categories of plastic packaging materials.

These include single-use plastic carrier/shopping bags; expanded polystyrene foam, commonly referred to as styrofoam; and plastic drinking straws.

As one of the agencies tasked with the oversight and implementation of the ban, NEPA also has responsibility for the exemption application process.

Manufacturers and exporters can apply for temporary exemptions through NEPA. NEPA has also established a hotline (876-285-8531) and email address (policyonplasticban@nepa.gov.jm) dedicated to receiving queries, and offering responses and advice to the public on the ban.

“The public education programme is going to be a challenge, and we are prepared for it. We have to ensure that all Jamaicans understand the policy position of the Government, all Jamaicans are knowledgeable as to why this ban was implemented, what the alternatives are and what contribution each individual can make to the process. We also have to reach out to the industry,” Knight said.

He noted that while the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters' Association has raised concerns regarding implementation, the entity has pledged support for the ban.

NEPA's Director of the Environmental and Conservation Division Anthony McKenzie, at the same time, underscored the focus of the ban and its importance to the environment.

“The objective is to reduce the plastic single-use containers in the waste stream. Now, if it is that the garbage bag is made of plastic, we would expect that it would be used to containerise the garbage and then head to the disposal site. It should not end up in the waste stream – in the gullies, in the drainage systems and entering on to our coasts,” he pointed out.

International Coastal Clean-up Day reports generated by NEPA showed that plastics and styrofoam make up seven of the top-10 garbage items collected from the country's coastlines and make up over 50 per cent of the total garbage weight collected.

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