With immediate effect stamp duty and environmental tax charges, which are mandated by the Ministry of Trade and Tourism for non-returnable and non-reusable commodities, will be applied to Styrofoam.
This is according to Robert Persaud, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, who emphasized that the restriction will also entail a ban on Styrofoam containers within the next two years.
He said that Styrofoam constitutes about two percent of the waste stream in Guyana and is widely used in the food industry. At this juncture, the national restrictions on Styrofoam will apply only to its use as food service containers.
Persaud noted that Government has approved the proposed actions, leading to the restriction on the use of Styrofoam products. Having alternatives for Styrofoam containers is pertinent for the ban to be in place. As such, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the private sector have teamed up to make biodegradable containers available.
According to Persaud, Caribbean Containers Inc. has developed ECO PAK containers, which provide similar functions as Styrofoam containers in terms of holding capacity and strength. The major difference with the ECO PAK product line is its positive contribution to the environment.
ECO PAK containers are 100 percent biodegradable within 90 days and are prepared from perennial plants. Additionally, incentives would be available to the private sector for the importation of biodegradable containers. This would continue even after the ban becomes effective, he said.
Persaud, who has responsibility for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the Environmental Protection Act of 2006, was amended to include the Environmental Protection (Litter Enforcement) Regulations 2012. The provisions of this regulation will be enforced by the EPA, he assured.
The Minister said EPA’s stance on Styrofoam is no different to the Ministry and therefore, joint efforts are being made to rid Guyana of this product, which can have a very deleterious effect on the environment.
He explained that Styrofoam is not considered hazardous waste, however, its ubiquity and impacts on the environment can be detrimental, as it will never decompose. It is a part of the Municipal Solid Waste stream and is managed as such. However, the indiscriminate dumping of solid waste including Styrofoam in Guyana has threatened public health, safety and welfare, urban aesthetics and resulted in death or illness to marine life.
“The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment has initiated a “Pick-it-up Guyana” campaign which was launched in June 2013. It focuses on several elements to achieve its objectives, including enforcement against littering; public awareness; engagement of stakeholders; and mechanisms to reduce, reuse and recycling waste. To this end, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment facilitated the drafting of the Environmental Protection (Litter Enforcement) Regulations to ensure stricter enforcement of littering in Guyana,” he said.
Persaud stated that these regulations make provision for the establishment of an environmental court to toughen up enforcement against delinquent waste disposers. Also, the Ministry is looking at developing a ticketing system for offending individuals and businesses. Litter Prevention Wardens will have the power to issue tickets to offenders, failing to pay which, the offender will be brought before the Court.
He noted that determining the cost Styrofoam has on society is not possible in monetary terms.
“First of all, whilst we are not privy to exact numbers, what is undisputed is the fact that the environmental cost to clean-up Styrofoam waste is borne by taxpayers to the tune of millions of dollars each year since it is not included in its purchase price. This includes clearing of blocked drains, outfalls, etc,” Persaud said.
He added that there are other areas which cannot be easily quantified in monetary terms. These include aesthetics, public perception, safety and welfare.
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