A new task force has been created in the Bahamas to ban all single use plastics and styrofoam by 2020. This includes things like plastic bags, straws, food utensils, and the ubiquitous styrofoam takeout containers.
The task force is made up of The Ministry of Tourism, The Ministry of Health, The Ministry of Finance, The Customs Department, The University of The Bahamas, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Federation (BCCEC), The Bahamas Plastic Movement, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Atlantis Paradise Island and Baha Mar Ltd.
The Bahamas will join a growing list of over 40 countries that have already, or are in the process of banning these products. Such bans are critical to reducing waste and pollution. Typically used for only 15 minutes, these items take between 500 – 1000 years to break down in land fills. In addition, they have created a dire situation of ocean pollution. It affects the health of animals, humans, and the environment.
Questions & Answers
- Why is a Single-Use Plastics and Styrofoam Ban important to The Bahamas?
Plastic and Styrofoam waste affects human health, animals, and the environment. The overuse of plastics and Styrofoam has resulted in the widespread pollution and contamination of our environment that threatens our marine and terrestrial biodiversity. Often found scattered as litter throughout our communities and left on public beaches particularly after holiday festivities, plastic and Styrofoam litter diminishes the beauty of our islands which attracts millions of tourists annually. At the current rate of plastic pollution, The Bahamas Plastic Movement estimates that it could cause The Bahamas up to $8.5 million in tourism losses annually; a lost we cannot afford!
- When will the ban be in effect?
The Ministry of Environment and Housing created a taskforce comprising of The Ministry of Tourism, The Ministry of Health, The Ministry of Finance, The Customs Department, The University of The Bahamas, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Federation (BCCEC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Atlantis Paradise Island and Baha Mar Ltd., to advance an inclusive national campaign to phase out single-use plastics such as plastic bags, straws, food utensils and Styrofoam containers by 2020.
- What is the timeline for the phased ban?
The Ministry of Environment and Housing will embark on nation-wide public consultation and education campaign. Public input from these meetings will be used to develop a manageable phase-out plan with the target deadline of January 1st, 2020.
- What does this project mean for the management of the New Providence Landfill and RFP Process?
Due to our isolated archipelago nature, condensed populations and tourist dominated economy, we are challenged with finding effective solutions to solid waste management. Rethinking solid waste management, this ban provides an opportunity to reduce plastic and Styrofoam waste sent to landfills which although used for approximately 15 minutes, take between 500 and 1000 years to break down. This is the first step towards developing a national waste management strategy for The Bahamas.
- How will this ban impact food and retail outlets?
The Ministry of Environment and Housing will conduct two rounds of public consultations with retail outlets, restaurants, and hotels. Feedback gathered will assist the Ministry in developing an alternative list that meets the demand and needs of businesses.
- Will the government reduce duty and Value Added Tax?
Customs and Finance have representatives on the Task Force and we are working with them to outline the correct protocol to reduce taxes on approved alternatives and to improve incentives for business operations. During the first round of consultations, we will be asking for the public input on proposed incentive options and approved product alternatives.
- Will the public be involved in this process?
There will be two rounds of public consultations. The first round is projected to start at the end of April with businesses operations, environmental groups and town hall meetings.
Family Island consultations first round will start mid-June and during the summer the team will conduct a Summer Camp Crawl to engage students during the break.
At the end of the first round, we will compile all recommendations for alternatives and incentives and have a comprehensive piece of legislation for final comments.
- When can we expect to see any legislation for this ban?
Without any unforeseen setbacks, our target deadline is the end of August after we have completed all first round consultations.