RG Opinion article by Sophia Collis, BEST summer intern 2019
The second option available for ridding Bermuda of plastic waste involves taxing single-use plastics on importation and lowering duties on alternatives.
The target area to focus on should be the elimination of plastic bags, food containers, food trays, egg cartons, cups, glasses, lids, cutlery, plates, bowls and drinking straws through the switch to better eco-friendly products.
Step 1: Announce the plan to target specific single-use plastics with higher duties
We are aware that the Government is considering pursuing a policy based on initiating higher import duties on selected single-use plastics. Similar to the ban outlined above, this approach must target the same items — plastic bags, take-out containers, cups, lids, plates, etc — and be completed within a given limited period of time and in the same aforementioned framework.
A clear date must be set for the imposition of the new duties and duty relief.
Notably, no Caribbean countries formulated plastic mitigation policies that solely relied on increased duties. Policies have been intertwined with lowering duties on alternatives so as to provide feasible options for plastic replacement. Thus, the promotion of better alternative products should be clearly articulated.
Raising a tax on single-use plastic imports is a feasible option for the Government to undertake.
This policy instrument aims to curb single-use plastic consumption by setting a “price” on single-use disposable plastic products, which were previously handed out to customers for free, as changing the cost will change behaviour.
Revenues generated from plastic taxes have contributed to environmental funds in various countries, and that could be applied in Bermuda.
Implementing a tariff on certain plastic products will directly affect wholesale importers and retailers, who will most likely pass the costs on to their customers.
If the public are not engaged in the reasons behind this tax, there will be objections and resistance.
Therefore, public consultation, educational messaging and transparency are critically important. A policy that is designed in isolation, say, to restrict use of plastic without promoting alternatives, is likely to fail.