Deputy Progressive Liberal Party leader Chester Cooper.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
EXUMA and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper said the government’s upcoming ban on single-use plastics is being implemented too soon.
He also hit out at the “punitive” punishment for releasing balloons as a first-time offence under the anticipated law.
The ban on single-use plastics and Styrofoam will go in place on January 1, 2020.
“I support the idea, but I do believe the implementation time is too close,” Mr Cooper said yesterday during debate on a compendium of environmental bills in the House of Assembly.
“January 1 is right around the corner. I think a six-month window for public education and to allow people to deplete the stock they had already purchased would make more sense. In order for this to work, there must be buy-in from the public. The public should know how this impacts our land and sea and health. Otherwise people will flout the law.”
He added: “This will impact small business and small business owners the most. We have to be sensitive about the bottom line, what with the recent increase in VAT and the soon to be increased power bills if the government has its way. A few months ago when these bills were laid, I made a plea on behalf of a small business owner from Black Point, Exuma who hires up to 12 persons in the plastics business. They must have adequate time to appropriately adjust their product lines.”
In response, Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira told The Tribune the public began to be notified of the plastic ban in 2018, suggesting everyone had adequate time. He added that there will be a six-month grace period next year as well.
Mr Cooper also questioned whether elements are in place to ensure compliance with the anticipated laws.
“We often pass laws in this place that the government does not have the teeth to enforce and we often do not enforce laws already on the books,” he said. “Also, $2,000 for releasing balloons on the first offence? We can be punitive to deter these things without being excessive in the face of inadequate education and transition. The date of commencement is also right after Christmas. So while I support the idea, the timeframe should definitely be extended.”
Nonetheless, Mr Cooper and other Progressive Liberal Party MPs supported the compendium of bills, which included the Ministry of Environment Bill, the Environmental Planning and Protection Bill, the Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill, the Bahamas National Trust (Amendment) Bill and the Bahamas Protected Areas Fund (Amendment) Bill.
The Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill, 2019 will prohibit single-use plastic foodware and non-biodegradable, oxo-biodegradable and biodegradable single-use plastic bags; prohibit the release of balloons; and regulate the use of compostable single-use plastic bags. Single-use plastic foodware outlined in the bill include: Styrofoam cups, plates and other similar Styrofoam foodware used to contain food; plastic knives, forks, spoons and straws.
Under the new law, businesses will be able to possess and sell prohibited plastics to customers up to June 30, 2020 for a fee. Businesses will be allowed to sell compostable single-use plastic bags for 25 cents to $1, excluding VAT.
If convicted under the proposed legislation, a first time offender faces a fine not exceeding $2,000, and in the case of a continuing offence, $500 for each day the offence continues. A second or subsequent offence will be met with a fine not exceeding $3,000, and further fine of $700 for each day it continues.