Tack­ling scourge of sty­ro­foam, plas­tic

Jamaica Gleaner - - @ISSUE -

FIRST-TIME GOV­ERN­MENT se­na­tor Matthew Sa­muda has re­opened a lon­grun­ning na­tional con­ver­sa­tion on whether or not to ban plas­tic and sty­ro­foam con­tain­ers, which are the main cul­prits clog­ging wa­ter­ways, sew­ers, streets and gul­lies, as well as the land­fill.

Us­ing the route of a pri­vate mem­ber’s mo­tion, the young se­na­tor called at­ten­tion to the en­vi­ron­men­tal harm caused by cer­tain plas­tics and sty­ro­foam con­tain­ers and pro­posed that a ban be slapped on these prod­ucts.

If such leg­is­la­tion were to be en­acted, Ja­maica would be fol­low­ing in the footsteps of many other coun­tries that have ei­ther banned plas­tic made from high-den­sity poly­eth­yl­ene or levied taxes on busi­nesses that use them, and, in other cases, have im­posed fees for those elect­ing to use plas­tics.

Take Bangladesh, a strict ban on light­weight plas­tic was in­tro­duced in 2002 af­ter floods caused by lit­tered plas­tic bags sub­merged twothirds of the coun­try. Ja­maica, also prone to flood­ing and no­to­ri­ous for its in­dis­crim­i­nate dis­posal of waste, could learn some lessons from this ex­am­ple.

The lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment lobby has been con­sis­tently sound­ing the warn­ing about the dan­gers posed by plas­tics, which they say is a ma­jor threat to our ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment. It is in­dis­putable that even when plas­tics are prop­erly dis­posed of, they take many years to de­com­pose and break down. To the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, Mr Sa­muda may well sig­nal a new gen­er­a­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivism, for in­deed, Ja­maica has a pol­lu­tion prob­lem.

The Ja­maica Ho­tel and Tourist As­so­ci­a­tion (JHTA) has pub­licly in­di­cated its sup­port for this ban. The rea­son is ob­vi­ous, for in this throw­away era, many of our once beau­ti­ful beaches have be­come dump­ing grounds for all man­ner of dis­pos­ables, in­clud­ing food con­tain­ers, cups, bot­tles, and boxes. Ev­ery year, the mounds of garbage cleared from our beaches are a source of em­bar­rass­ment. This has be­come a scar on Ja­maica’s land­scape and seascape and should trig­ger im­me­di­ate ac­tion. Af­ter all, we are en­ti­tled to en­joy garbage-free beaches.


How­ever, the pro­posal to ban plas­tics may not be good news for some man­u­fac­tur­ers and mem­bers of the re­tail and restau­rant trade. They have been say­ing that in­tro­duc­ing pa­per is more ex­pen­sive. Mr Sa­muda had the per­fect foil for that ar­gu­ment as he rea­soned in the Se­nate that “the long-term cost of not re­mov­ing these items from our waste stream is far greater. It im­pacts gen­er­a­tions to come”.

For its part, Wisynco, the is­land’s largest man­u­fac­turer of sty­ro­foam prod­ucts, has an­nounced that it may in­tro­duce biodegrad­able en­zymes into its prod­ucts to speed up de­com­po­si­tion. On a tour of their plant this week, the man­age­ment as­sured Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness that they were also con­cerned about the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of sytro­foam.

This ban will ob­vi­ously not hap­pen overnight, but here is where ed­u­ca­tion has a crit­i­cal role to play. It starts with the in­di­vid­ual, who must be con­vinced that us­ing plas­tics is bad for the en­vi­ron­ment and who must make that de­ci­sion to move to re­us­able cloth bags or pa­per bags or some other al­ter­na­tive.

So the plas­tic scourge has to be fought on many dif­fer­ent fronts via pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, lob­by­ing, and leg­is­la­tion. Ap­proval by the Se­nate of Mr Sa­muda’s mo­tion is a small, first step.

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