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St James businesses fined for plastic ban breaches

Published:Thursday | October 6, 2022 | 12:09 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

NINE BUSINESSES were hit with a total of $180,000 in fines on Wednesday, when their representatives appeared before the St James Parish Court for breaches of the ban against plastic bags and plastic drinking straws.

The St James-based businesses were charged after breaches of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) (Plastic Packaging Materials Prohibition) Order of 2018 were uncovered last month.

“There were 12 pieces of information that were laid out re the offences, so that means there were 12 offences that were brought before the court. It just so happened that it was nine establishments that were charged,” attorney Matthew Ricketts, who represented the NRCA, clarified after initial reports suggested that 12 businesses were to be sanctioned.

Six of the nine businesses, which were run by Chinese or Indian operators, were slapped with $20,000 fines for possession of plastic bags. Three of the six were fined an additional $5,000 for possession of plastic drinking straws.

The remaining three businesses were fined $15,000 for possession of plastic drinking straws.

During the brief hearing for one of the establishments, the proprietor’s lawyer, Trevor Ho Lyn, told presiding parish judge Sasha Ashley that his client had not manufactured the offending items.

“Clearly, the maximum penalty is not to be considered, especially in relation to the drinking straws, as they are attached to the boxes and my client does not manufacture them. He only buys and sells them,” said Ho Lyn.

Judge Ashley, in handing down her rulings, acknowledged that the disputed items had been openly procured through legal channels.

“It is a situation where these things are allowed to come in legally. They are not being smuggled in, which is why the sums (fines) are so paltry, as I have to bear that in mind,” she said.

In 2018, the Government announced plans to implement a ban on the manufacturing, importation, distribution and use of single-use plastic bags, plastic drinking straws and expanded polystyrene foam products.

The first phase of the ban took effect on January 1, 2019, amid concerns about the environmental impact of plastics.

Offenders can be fined up to $2 million and/or a term of imprisonment for breaches.

christopher.thomas@gleanerjm.com