No delay, no backing down! - Defiant Vaz says ban on single-use plastic bags and styrofoam will take effect on Tuesday despite calls for delay
Daryl Vaz, the Government's point man on the ban on single-use plastic bags, styrofoam products and plastic straws, has rejected calls for a pushback of the January 1, 2019 implementation day.
According to Vaz, any date which is selected for the implementation of the ban will meet with calls for a delay.
"There is no time which will be the right time for everyone. The right time is now and our children, grandchildren, and generations to come will thank us for January 1, 2019. History will judge us kindly," Vaz told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We will work tirelessly to make the transition. All policy decisions pose challenges in the early part of the implementation," added Vaz
Last Friday, the opposition spokesperson on land and the environment, Senator Sophia Frazer Binns, urged the Government to delay the implementation of the ban and instead move expeditiously to an islandwide public-education and awareness campaign to sensitise the public ahead of any move to replace the popular plastic bags.
According to Frazer Binns, while the Opposition supports the ban, the Government's attitude towards the implementation confirms its earlier suspicion that the announcement was a public relations gimmick which was designed to distract the country's attention from serious policy issues
But Vaz, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation in charge of the environment, said any delay would satisfy persons who, despite the announcement of the ban, had gone ahead and imported more single-use plastic and styrofoam products.
"There are some wholesales, like those in downtown Kingston, who I am told have stocked up on these so-called 'scandal bags' which they serve goods in. I would suggest to them that they dump them as we will be taking action against any operator caught giving their customers these bags," said Vaz.
"I gave a directive yesterday (Thursday) that there will be no exemptions for existing stock. So the bottom line is that the exemptions that were stated in the announcement in September, those are the only exemptions, and that was done from then to facilitate some of the manufacturers and the importers.
"But in relation to further exemptions for the single-use plastic bags after next week Tuesday, that would be undermining the policy itself by virtue of allowing stocks and trade to be utilised," added Vaz.
He told our news team that major retailers who had imported bags before the announcement of the ban, and who have applied for two or three months exemptions, could be compensated by the Government for the bags they have in stock.
"After January 1, 2019, there will be no exemptions, absolutely none, so the bottom line is if you have stock of single-use bags 24x24 inches, or below, they cannot be put into the trade after Monday night.
"However, because we are a business-friendly government and we understand the concerns of these business operators, we will come up with a method for compensation, and part of that will be that we will take those bags into custody when compensation is being made.
"We are working on that as we speak, now with the manufacturers association (Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association) and NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency)," said Vaz.
He said the decision to ban the plastic and styrofoam products was not taken lightly.
"There will be other alternatives. They must go and explore, because people are using it as a business opportunity. What we have to do is make sure that we are dealing with the single-use plastic bags, which are causing the problem and blocking up the drains and causing this major environmental problem on land and in the sea," said Vaz.
Two Plastic Packaging Materials Prohibition (PPM) Orders were signed by the respective ministers and gazetted late last week.
The orders were prepared under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act and the Trade Act. They provide for fines of up to $2 million for breaches of the ban.
Vaz has called a press conference for tomorrow at Jamaica House, where he is expected to respond to concerns about the ban.