Apr 29, 2018 News
A major debate is underway in Government over the use of plastic in the country.
On Friday, in what could severely curtail the trade in especially plastic bags and reduce the unsightly garbage situation, Government disclosed that the matter is likely to come before Cabinet in a matter of weeks.
During a post Cabinet press briefing, Minister of State, Joe Harmon, disclosed that Cabinet is set to discuss a memorandum from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The document will propose a gradual banning of plastic. It is not the intention to have an immediate ban.
Rather, the intention is for a total ban by 2021 of the single use plastic bags, among other things.
Regulators have been complaining of the problem that has led to headaches in controlled garbage. The situation is highly evident in cases of flooding where indiscriminate dumping has led to clogging of waterways.
The proposal is to “wean” the population over time with six supermarkets already rewarding customers and introducing alternatives, as part of the plan.
Last week, the issue made it to the fore as Guyana celebrated Earth Day.
The single use plastic bags, popular in supermarkets, is mostly made of low-density polyethylene, which does not break easily and is, therefore, not easily recycled and does not disintegrate.
The theme for this year’s Earth Day observances was ‘End Plastic Pollution’.
At an event at State House, Harmon called for changes to “our consumption and waste disposal patterns to combat this all pervasive presence of plastic waste in our environment. Very soon, we will have taken to Cabinet, a memorandum, which is being prepared by the Department of Environment… about measures to ban [single-use] plastics in Guyana… We are going to try to put in place the policies and arrangements,” he said.
The Minister of State said that Earth Day presents the perfect opportunity for citizens of Guyana and the wider world, to not only take stock of their individual and collective responsibilities to the environment, but also to demonstrate a greater commitment and resolve to keep and the safeguard the planet so that it is not rendered uninhabitable for future generations.
“In January 2017, the Administration tabled and passed in the National Assembly, an amendment to the Customs Act, which stipulates that importers of plastic containers must pay an environmental levy to the Guyana Revenue Authority. This levy was not primarily a revenue collection initiative, but a measure to encourage recycling of plastic and to reduce its use,” the Minister explained.
Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collaborated with some of the major supermarkets in the City to minimise the use of plastic bags. Minister Harmon said that this initiative will see supermarkets switching to boxes and reusable and biodegradable bags.
The management of these businesses have also undertaken to find ways to encourage their customers to walk with their shopping bags instead of relying on plastic. Some of the participating businesses include: Bounty Supermarket, N&S Mattai’s Supermarket, Survival Supermarket, Budget Supermarket, Distribution Services Limited (DSL) and Massy Stores Supermarket.
Officials said that the problem is not just plastic. Plastic is a very useful material. It has provided many solutions for society and for business.
The problem, however, is our approach to plastic and the wanton use of plastic products, especially single-use items and the manner in which they are discarded.
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