RG Opinion article by Sophia Collis, BEST summer intern 2019
There are two types of policy instruments that can be used to reduce plastic use. Ranging from municipal to intergovernmental levels, the number of policies on single-use plastics has more than tripled since 2010. While some countries have imposed full or partial bans on plastic bags or more plastic items, other countries have implemented fees, levies or taxes that are paid either by the retailer or by consumers, the former being more prevalent.
The policies adopted by various Caribbean nations display the feasibility of implementing a plastic ban in Bermuda and will help to formulate a unique framework that fits the specificities of Bermuda’s retailers, consumers and government. Important lessons learnt in countries that have imposed bans on single-use plastics stem from the need for broad consultation, public education and messaging about why the changes need to be made.
Option 1: Ban of Single-Use Plastic Items
The first recommendation is to institute a ban on the importation and distribution of plastic bags and plastic, including Styrofoam or expanded polystyrene, takeout products such as food containers, food trays, egg cartons, cups, glasses, lids, cutlery, plates, bowls and drinking straws. Not surprisingly, many of these items are some of the most widely found in local litter surveys. We believe that targeting these products is both realistic and effective in the fight against the use of non-degradable disposable products and our commitment to reducing the flow of plastic waste into Bermuda’s waters.
Dominica banned most of these single-use products mentioned above with effect from the start of this year. Dominica also approved a 0 per cent duty on the importation of alternative authenticated biodegradable products — lids, cups, single-use containers, cutlery and drinking straws — and a 0 per cent duty on the importation of reusable shopping bags with immediate effect. Additionally, a six-month phase-out period for the distribution and use of non-biodegradable products imported before the ban taking effect was in place from January 1 to June 31.
The Dominican Government, along with partners, initiated a public-awareness campaign that included public consultations with the private sector and general public, media campaigns, educational sessions, and joint promotions with NGOs and private-sector organisations. The Turks & Caicos, Antigua & Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands and various other nations also followed a similar strict but effective timeline.
Grenada’s Minister for Climate Resilience and the Environment described the island’s Non-Biodegradable Waste Control Act as “progressive legislation” that seeks to regulate the use of non-biodegradable products, with a view to reducing the negative environmental impacts and to improving the health of Grenadians. Such a ban in Bermuda would represent a commitment to the health of all Bermudians and to our cherished environment.