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Jamaica says ban on single plastics not a final solution

By CMC

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Douglas Vaz (File Photo)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 6, CMC – The Jamaica government says while the ban on single use plastics serves to mitigate some of the country’s waste management challenges, it is not a panacea.

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz, told the Senate that efforts would continue to strengthen the country’s waste management infrastructure and regulatory framework.

“However, the effective management of the country’s waste is not the responsibility of the government alone, but also of the private sector, civil society and the individual. Collectively we can realize the much-needed change.

“I call upon the private sector, including our micro-, small- and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs), to seize the opportunity presented through the ban to supply Jamaican designed and produced alternative products for the domestic and regional markets,” Vaz said as he addressed legislators on the reduction of plastic waste and the implementation of a Deposit Refund Scheme for plastic bottles.

Vaz told legislators that while the public’s response to the ban “has been overwhelmingly positive” he was

Reiterating an earlier invitation to the public to submit any queries, suggestions or comments regarding the implementation of the ban on single use plastics.

“Change is never easy and can be disruptive, but change is necessary, if we are to ensure a good quality of life for present and future generations of Jamaicans. The ban on single use plastics while it serves to mitigate some of the country’s waste management challenges, is not a panacea,” he added.

He said that both the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and Ex-Im Bank have been requested to support the private sector in making the transition to alternative packaging as he made reference to the deposit refund scheme for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high- density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles or plastic bottles.

“Over 50 per cent of the plastic waste generated in the island are plastic bottles. Indeed, approximately 850 million plastic bottles are placed on the local market each year. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of these bottles are collected in the formal waste management system or recycled.

“As one traverses the country, you will see plastic bottles indiscriminately discarded along major thoroughfares, on open lots/dumps, in gullies, drains and other waterways. Not only are these bottles unsightly, but they are potential hosts for vectors, such as mosquitoes, and have contributed to the flooding which occurs in several of the main urban centres after heavy rains.”

Vaz said that the government has partnered with the private sector in supporting Recycling Partners of Jamaica Limited, through its contribution of J$50 million (One Jamaica dollar=US$0.008 cents) annually to facilitate the collection and recycling of plastic bottles.

But he told legislators despite Recycling Partners of Jamaica Limited’s efforts to date, only 11 per cent of the plastic bottles generated are collected.

“This level of recovery is inadequate and will not ensure the change the Government intends to effect. Studies have shown that the implementation of a deposit refund scheme or deposit return system for specific categories of wastes, including plastic bottles, can result in a reduction in litter, increase in recycling rates, creation of decent jobs – reduction of poverty – as well as support the Green and Circular economies. It should be noted however that Implementation of a Deposit Refund Scheme is not new to Jamaica.”

Vaz said that a deposit refund scheme has been successfully implemented by one of the country’s major bottlers for several decades to facilitate the recovery of its crates and glass bottles.

“Institution of a Deposit Refund Scheme on plastic bottles is therefore an expansion of a ‘tried and true’ approach which the Government has embraced as a viable strategy for addressing the millions of plastic bottles generated in the country each year.”

Vaz said that the idea of a private sector-led Deposit Refund Scheme for plastic bottles was also one which was endorsed by the National Partnership Council and he is extremely pleased that the private sector has stepped up to the plate and will therefore provide further details of this private sector-led deposit refund scheme for plastic bottles.

Vaz said that the scheme would allow for the application of a deposit on plastic bottles placed on the market and a cash rebate to the consumer on the return of these bottles to designated redemption centres across the island.

“This scheme will be implemented by a reconstituted Recycling Partners Jamaica Limited. It is important to note that the participating members of the private sector have instituted a self-imposed Cess of J$1.00 per bottle, which will see an initial private sector investment of J$850 million into the programme,” he added.

Vaz said that the initial investment in Recycling Partners will be used to put in place collection points and increase collection capacity by way of truck purchases and fund an expanded education campaign, adding that the scheme must be supported by a comprehensive and sustained national public education and awareness programme.

“The government will monitor the implementation of the Deposit Refund Scheme to ensure accountability and transparency, and if deemed necessary, promulgate legislation to govern the Scheme. Un-refunded deposits will be used to maintain the Deposit Refund Scheme as well as provide support to the NSWMA in its efforts to improve the island’s waste management infrastructure.

“Again, the plastic bottles, once collected, present an excellent opportunity for our recyclers to catalyse economic activity, particularly at the micro- and small levels, by designing and producing products for local and regional consumption,” Vaz told legislators on Tuesday.

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