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JHTA throws its weight behind the proposed ban on plastics and styrofoam

Published:Wednesday | October 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Western Bureau:

As damage to the island's marine life becomes more apparent, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) has thrown its support behind the proposed ban on plastics and Styrofoam.

This follows a proposal by Government Senator Matthew Samuda calling for state action to protect the environment from non-biodegradable solid waste.

According to the largest group of tourism stakeholders in the country, plastics and Styrofoam have been washing up on their beaches, affecting the country's reefs, presenting risks to marine life, and inevitably, contributing to the reduction of their local fish stock. "This affects the livelihood of hundreds in our fishing communities as well as hotels and restaurants that purchase their catch-of-the-day seafood from local fishermen," laments JHTA president Omar Robinson.




A hotelier himself, Robinson expressed particular concerns about the impact plastic and Styrofoam were having on product offerings such as diving, snorkelling, and glass-bottom boat activities. He cautioned that this could greatly reduce Jamaica's potential for earnings from the tourism industry.

The JHTA president's arguments were bolstered by his vice-president and chairman of the Environment Committee, Carol Bourke, who stated in a media release that hotels that have gone the route of sustainability programmes and sustainable operations have long banned or significantly reduced the use of plastics and Styrofoam. Instead, they have used paper-based replacements, and in some cases, biodegradable replacements.

"Yes, there are bio and oxo-degradable replacements for plastics available today if we as a country and a people decide that this is what we want to rectify the problem for future generations," she argued, reiterating the JHTA's support.

"There are alternatives available, and Jamaica's tourism industry wholeheartedly supports the banning of plastic and Styrofoam use."

Samuda, speaking in the Senate recently, stated that these products will take 500 years or more to simply break down into smaller particles, but worse, they will never degrade.

This reality has been described by the JHTA president as systemically suicidal.