Consumers have been reminded that Bahamian businesses will be required to charge them a minimum 25 cents per bag for using single-use plastic bags from January 1, 2020.
The levy is mandatory under Section 8 of the Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill 2019. The maximum fee that can be charged is $1, excluding VAT. T
The Bill was tabled in the House of Assembly on Thursday, October 2, and was described by Romauld Ferreira, minister of the environment, as being among "the strongest, most robust suite of environmental legislation in Bahamian history."
"Charging a fee for the use of single-use plastic bags is one of the boldest ways in which we can help Bahamians and residents to break the habit of using them," said Dr Rhianna Neely, senior environmental officer at the Ministry of Environment and Housing.
"Many countries, including Denmark and Ireland, have seen as much as a 90 percent reduction in plastic bag usage and litter after introducing similar legislation. We can't project whether or not we'll see similar numbers but this is a fantastic start to managing our crippling plastic pollution problem."
The cost of the purchase of each bag will be reflected on a separate receipt that will be provided to the customer at check-out or listed on the customer's primary receipt as a 'Checkout bag fee'. The money collected from the sale of these bags will be retained by the company that is selling them.
The implementation of these fees will complement the ban on the importation, distribution, and manufacture of single-use plastic bags, which will also come into effect on January 1, 2020, along with a ban on Styrofoam containers and cups, plastic utensils and plastic straws. The release of balloons into the air will also be made illegal on this date.
Any person who imports, distributes, manufactures, sells, supplies, or uses plastic bags in contravention of the Bill could be fined up to $2,000 in respect of the first offence, and up to $500 per day for each offence that continues thereafter.
These fees will not be charged on bags for pharmaceutical dispensing, dry cleaning bags, bags that contain ice for retail, and several other types. The list of the types of bags that are excluded from the ban can be found in the Bill, which can be downloaded from the 'Plastic Free 242' campaign website at www.plasticfree242.com.
"We're very excited about this change," Dr Neely added. "This is a huge step in the global fight against plastic pollution. Hurricane Dorian's impact on Abaco and Grand Bahama has made the devastating impacts of climate change more apparent than ever before. If there were ever a time for Bahamians to embrace a movement toward reducing plastic use to protect our environment and our way of life, this would be it."