May 20, 2016 News
Government is moving to determine how much stock of Styrofoam remains in the country, before starting enforcement to ensure it is not being illegally used.
From April 1, there was a ban on the importation of Styrofoam products, which is used widely in the food industry.
The Styrofoam boxes, cups and spoons were blamed for contributing to the waste and drainage problems across the country. It had been a major problem in the clogging of drains and kokers.
While Government had shifted the deadline to April 1, 2016, there are still a number of suppliers with large stocks in hand.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working with the recently formed Styrofoam Ban Task Force on establishing standards for bio-degradable alternatives.
“An audit of Styrofoam stock is also being conducted to determine the quantity of the product remaining in the country. Upon completion of the audit, the agency will then determine a suitable date for enforcement of the use of Styrofoam food containers in accordance with the regulations,” the Ministry said.
It was also pointed out that in light of concerns raised by seafood exporters in Guyana, and the potential negative economic impact of the “ban” on the industry, EPA has petitioned the Guyana Revenue Authority to lift the restriction on Styrofoam fish boxes.
Arrangements are being put into place to allow the purchase and importation of the 65-pound capacity Styrofoam fish boxes.
“On the matter of tax incentives for the importation of bio-degradable food and beverage containers, it was announced by the Guyana Revenue Authority that these items will no longer attract the Value-Added Tax. This measure came into effect from February 10, 2016 and applies to biodegradable food and beverage containers only,” the Ministry said.
Last month, the ministry disclosed that GRA has been asked not to process declarations for businesses desirous of importing Styrofoam (Expanded Polystyrene) after March 31.
The Ministry had explained that following an announcement, last year, Guyana is prohibiting the importation effective January 1, it had granted a three-month waiver to importers of Styrofoam food containers who have entered into transactions prior to January 1, 2016 – the date when the prohibition kicked in.
Government has been arguing that Styrofoam, highly popular in the food business as containers, takes more than 500 years to biodegrade. Because of its lightweight nature it can easily travel through gutters, storm drains, or in the wind, and reach the ocean.
A ban had been in the making for a number of years now. It had been a major problem when the new administration took office last year and started a city cleanup. The drains and waterways were filled with boxes and cups.
“In the marine environment, polystyrene breaks down into smaller articles that are ingested by wildlife causing suffocation. Polystyrene contains toxic chemicals that leach into hot foods and beverages posing serious threats to human health, including respiratory illnesses and cancer.
In most cities and counties, polystyrene cannot be recycled and is never compostable,” EPA says on its website.
Polystyrene is not recyclable in Guyana, costing millions of dollars to clear from drains, alleyways, and roadways.
Government is hoping that the use of alternatives like paper plates and cups, will significantly reduce the garbage problem.
Key partners in the implementation of the ban include the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Institute of Applied Science and Technology, the Guyana National Bureau of Standards and the Private Sector Commission.
Currently, the regulations in prohibiting the importation, manufacture and sale of expanded polystyrene products said that a person shall be liable upon summary conviction to a fine of no less than $50,000.
In effect, no food service establishment can sell food using Styrofoam boxes and containers. Those found to be in contravention will be issued a written warning prohibiting the establishment from selling or providing food for consumption in the container or face summary jurisdiction proceedings and be liable upon summary conviction to a fine of no less than $100,000.
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