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Wisynco fires fresh salvo in plastic ban row

Friday, September 21, 2018

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Wisynco Group Chairman William Mahfood last night asked the Government to say why it ignored a suggestion to give local companies five years to transition from the use of certain plastics and styrofoam products.

Mahfood made the request in a statement as he continued to joust with the Administration over its ban on single-use plastic announced on Monday this week and effective January 1, 2019.

Mahfood confirmed an earlier claim by Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, that some members of a working group established by the Government to discuss the issue of a ban on single-use plastic had asked for the measure to be imposed in five years' time.

According to Mahfood, the time, energy and resources invested into the recommendations made by the private/public sector working group “have been sidelined based on the speedy announcement made by the Government to introduce the ban in January of 2019”.

He said that, in addition to the transition period, the group had suggested that the Government implement key activities over a 24-month period, prior to the implementation of the proposed ban, for the purposes of public education, legislative review, and to ensure that Customs, the Trade Board, and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries are fully prepared to enforce the ban.

He said that one recommendation in a report submitted by the group clearly stated that: 'The ban would be implemented in five years, allowing for current styrofoam and PPM product inventories to be reduced as well as allow time for alternative products to be identified and brought online to full industrial scale. This would also allow time for a full regulatory impact assessment to be carried out, which would measure the full impact of the ban to fully inform the subsequent nature of the final Bill'.

According to Mahfood, “The time to fully develop the technology and gradually replace equipment for the programme would be about seven years. This would enable us to have a smooth transition without causing loss of jobs or disruption of the marketplace. The aim is to develop affordable cost and hygienic products that are environmentally friendly. We believe that a reasonable time frame is seven years, but promise the transition will start from year three.”

The suggested period, he said, was also deemed necessary by the group for a waiver on duties and taxes for environmentally friendly alternatives; for provisions to be made within the Development Bank of Jamaica as well as the Ministry of Finance; and for academia and the private sector to explore and develop environmentally friendly alternatives.

He said the group acknowledged the general notion that private sector interests endorse the change. At the same time, it “underscored the relevance of a thorough public education campaign surrounding the promotion of new innovations, recycling and the development of alternatives, over time, to ensure participation in the ban on styrofoam”.

Speaking to the impact the ban is expected to have on Wisynco's bottom line, Mahfood divulged that, “Plastic straws represent less than one-tenth of one per cent of the company's revenue, and the ban will therefore have no impact. Styrofoam represents four per cent of the company's revenue and approximately less than three per cent of the company's net profits.”

Noting that polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles are not subject to a ban, Mahfood said that Wisynco and the industry are in discussions with the Government to implement a deposit refund scheme which will encourage the collection and removal of PET bottles.

“We are targeting 80 per cent collection of the bottles and are committed to improving the environment of Jamaica,” he said, reiterating that his company has been a major player in the local recycling industry through partnerships with Recycling Partners of Jamaica Limited and Jamaica Environment Trust.

“Wisynco continues to support Government initiatives and looks forward to consultations to further clarify outstanding matters,” Mahfood added.

He also restated his view that “the broader national issue of waste management is a critical matter which must be addressed within the context of the discussion surrounding the ban on styrofoam and plastics”.

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