SAVE The Bays chairman Joseph Darville.
By FARRAH JOHNSON
SAVE the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville has joined the chorus of people calling on the government to abandon the 25 cents to $1 fee merchants are mandated to charge customers for single-use plastic bags.
The environmentalist said while he supports the new plastic ban, the government should abandon the fee and create a more effective way to encourage the public to embrace the initiative.
Mr Darville told The Tribune he believes shoppers should be given plastic bags free of charge until retailers “run out of stock”. This, he said, would give customers sufficient time to purchase reusable bags.
Under the Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Act, businesses can possess and sell the banned plastic bags for a fee until June 30. The fee is meant to be a deterrent, spurring residents from using single-use plastic items.
The Ministry of Environment began an awareness campaign about the new law—which came into effect on January 1—in early 2018.
“Plain and simple, the plastic ban is a good thing but I think it’s wrong for people to be charged 25 cents for a bag,” he said. “If you go to a grocery store right now and you have enough groceries that would require four of those plastic bags, that’s a dollar. A lot of people cannot afford that.
“I stood in line in a grocery store in Freeport just the other day and this woman almost cried because she was buying for her whole family and she had to pay 25 cents for every bag. And so I gave her some assistance just to take the stuff out in my arms because I too was not going to pay 25 cents for a bag.”
Stating that he did not understand the logic behind the charge, Mr Darville said he does not believe the additional 25 cents will “create a sense of awareness” in the public that would promote the importance of sustainability.
“There’s got to be a more just and equitable and also reasonable and sensible way to go about it,” he insisted. “Older ladies can hardly pay for the groceries that they have on the belt now. They cannot afford to add another 25 cents depending on how many bags they have.”
When asked what he believed would be a more effective way to enforce the plastic ban, Mr Darville said it would be better for stores to go back to using paper bags. He also said it should be “obligatory” for supermarkets to provide containers for shoppers with large grocery purchases.
Ministry of Environment officials have said they are not encouraging people to use paper bags, which lead to deforestation and create waste, but reusable bags.
Mr Darville also said: “It isn’t wise logic in that whole process as far as I can see. If you’re going to charge them, then have a reasonable price on reusable (and) biodegradable bags and then charge a minimum fee.”
Mr Darville also said the government should consider manufacturing biodegradable plastics.
He added: “I saw some really angry people in the food store recently and (the 25 cents charge) is going to leave a really bad taste in people’s minds and hearts and they’re just going to have a hostile view towards the whole thing moving towards getting rid of plastics period.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said he would rather risk an election than the future of the country, telling the media the government fully informed the public on the plastic ban and does not intend to reverse the decision.
“I would always prefer in losing an election than losing a country,” Dr Minnis told reporters. “That’s my position. I feel that a country and a future generation is more important to me.”
Dr Minnis was responding to comments by Super Value owner Rupert Roberts, who told a local daily that the government should eliminate the fee charged for plastic bags, as anger over the issue could cause the Minnis administration the next election.
The new law also banned Styrofoam, single-use plastic utensils and straws as well as the release of balloons into the atmosphere.