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The government may have to resort to taking punitive action against erring traders and businesses which still import plastic bags and other articles banned for use. The ban was put in effect in January 2019 and the enforcing agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), has been showing some consideration so far allowing the users some time for the transition. The cooperation from the users’ side has not been forthcoming with the latest news that 46 firms have now been issued notices. These notices alerted the firms that they will be asked to defend themselves against all charges for contravening the ban on the use of plastics. Of the 46, St. James had the highest with 21, followed by St. Andrew, Manchester and St Ann with 11, 8 and 6 respectively. For the time being, only these four parishes were taken up for punitive action.
Single Use Plastics the Culprit
The campaign against plastics became a universal one after environmentalists warned of serious consequences if the governments did not come down heavily on their usage. The particular type of plastic identified as a threat was ‘single-use plastics’ which is generally used to make bags, drinking straws, etc. The shop keepers and the public alike have gotten used to using these items as a convenience and are now finding it difficult to switch to alternate ways.
Work on Alternate Packaging Underway
There are certain plastic varieties that can still be adopted in place of the banned plastic. These are bio-degradable but may cost a little more in the initial stages. Interestingly, the Bureau of Standards Jamaica has confirmed that it has been approached with requests for details of the alternate plastic or other materials that can be used. The ones inquiring are typically importers who desire to place orders for the plastics which are not within the banned class.
Another loophole the government is trying to plug is the importation of the banned plastic through the ports, with knowledge of the Customs authorities. The problem thus far was that the classification of the goods under the tariff was the same. Customs Authority has now created a new classification and going forward they will be able to hold, return or destroy the plastics imported into Jamaica if they are a part of the banned group.