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Editors’ Forum | Samuda: No big price hikes with plastic ban

Published:Sunday | December 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/ Staff Reporter

Government Senator Matthew Samuda has moved to allay fears that Jamaicans will be paying much more for some products when the ban on some plastic and Styrofoam products takes effect on January 1, 2019.

"The major question that comes up with alternatives is, what is the cost, and what cost differential are you looking at?" Samuda told a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's North Street head office in Kingston last Friday.

He argued that a large Styrofoam lunch box now costs about $9 at the larger wholesales while a more environmentally friendly alternative could cost about $20.

"When I spoke to one of the guys that does one of these, I said, 'What have you moved from?' He has already moved from $20 to $14 with his different price tier because he is trying to target as close to the Styrofoam cost before the rest of the competition runs in, so prices are going to realign," argued Samuda.

He added that the packaging usually represents the smallest percentage of the total cost for a $500 box food, for example. As such, he doesn't foresee Jamaicans being asked to pay more for box lunches.

"It's not like we are talking about the chicken leg. If that moves, the cost of the food moves," he said.

According to Samuda, he has already identified at least 19 persons who want to offer alternatives to plastic and Styrofoam packaging, and the demand for these more environmentally friendly options will help to drive cost down.

"I am a firm believer in the free market and that the market always realigns as per needs and demands," said Samuda.

"I am getting pictures and WhatsApp messages and calls from persons right throughout the length and breadth of the country who have said, 'Oh, look at my paper straws. I have just brought in 10 containers of paper bags. I am meeting with this guy in India for equipment to make my bags here. I am looking at how to brand my paper bag'," added Samuda.