Gleaner Editors' Forum | $2-million fine for plastics - Businesses rush to apply for exemption as ban takes effect January 1
With the ban on certain single-use plastics and styrofoam products just days away, and facing a possible fine of up to $2 million or a maximum of two years' imprisonment, the list of businesses applying for a temporary exemption is growing.
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) said that to date, they are in receipt of 11 applications.
"Those requesting exemptions are predominantly from the food-processing industry. Requests have also been received from the plastic-manufacturing industry. Exemptions will not be granted beyond January 1, 2021," said public relations officer at NEPA, Ollyvia Anderson.
The exemptions are being granted for single-use plastic shopping bags made of polyethylene or polypropylene with dimensions at or less than 24"x 24" and of thickness greater than 1.2mils and at or less than 2.5mils.
Speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week, Government Senator Matthew Samuda explained why these bags will be exempt for now.
"They make up a much smaller percentage of total plastic-bag usage, and consideration was given to two manufacturers who had actually made investments within the last year before the discussions would have reached to a point," said Samuda.
"The intention of all of these measures at no point was to create economic fallout, so what we looked at was what was a reasonable rate of depreciation for the value of that investment."
Also on the exemption list is polystyrene foam for the packaging of food items such as raw meats and vegetables, and plastic straws for medical or other special-needs purposes.
TWO MINISTERIAL ORDERS
For persons who are thinking of breaching the ban, Samuda said that two ministerial orders have been delivered to the offices of the prime minister and the minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, to be signed shortly, which carry a fine of up to $2 million or a maximum of two years' imprisonment for lawbreakers.
"We have two ministerial orders - one under the Trade Act and one under the NRCA (Natural Resources Conservation Authority). The one under the NRCA will be signed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, and the one under the Trade Act will be signed by Minister Audley Shaw.
"The Trade Act provides for up to $2 million in fines for breaches of ministerial order under that provision, so it's an action that has teeth if you enforce it properly and get to the point where you say, 'Alright, we have passed it, fair transition time has been given'. So, if you find somebody breaching, they could be fined up to $2 million," said Samuda.
Come January 1, the ban will apply to the importation, manufacturing, distribution and use of single-use plastic bags, plastic straws and styrofoam products. It does not apply to plastic bags used to maintain public health and for food-safety standards.