Legislation to phase out single-use plastics and Styrofoam in Belize yet to be enacted

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

The banning of single-use plastic and Styrofoam products in Belize was scheduled to take place on April 22, 2019, but to date, things continue as usual. In March the Department of Environment (DOE) initiated a nationwide educational campaign, sensitizing Belizeans to the new policy and the importance of using bio-degradable items. At the same time, they were working on legislation known as the Draft Environmental Protection (Pollution from Plastics) Regulation 2019, for the ban to become a policy. According to DOE, the legislation is complete and is now at the Office of the Solicitor General waiting to start its process to become law.
The Draft Regulation, which can be found on DOE’s website (www.doe.gov.bz) highlights the goal of reducing the use of and prohibiting single-use plastics. Annually, Belize reportedly imports around 200 million pieces of single-use plastic bags along with 52 million pieces of Styrofoam and plastic food containers. Plastic and Styrofoam does not breakdown/decay and can last for millions of years, causing irreparable harm to the environment. The legislation also intends to promote green products, while monitoring and evaluating the country’s transition to these bio-degradable products. This will include monitoring importation and production practices, waste stream composition, and consumption habits. The attitudes and perceptions relating to single-use plastics and Styrofoam products will be observed.
While the legislation is yet to be enacted, DOE continues with their awareness campaign on the switch to green products. The reports that a stop on the importation of Styrofoam products to the country would start from August 1st could not be confirmed. However, Chief Executive Officer Percival Cho had stated in the past that the program includes a gradual phase-out process. DOE indicated that once the legislation is passed into the law, then full enforcement can take place.
On Ambergris Caye and other parts of the country, several businesses are beginning the switch without the need for legislation to be passed. Local producers in Belize are already supplying local businesses with bio-degradable plates, forks, spoons, cups, and even straws. Most stakeholders on the island have welcomed the initiative, even if others are sceptical of enforcement. A few of the businesses that shared their opinion with The San Pedro Sun, say that it was time that Belize looked into a healthier option, however, they still want to know if the supply of these new, green products will meet the demands while being affordable and if there will be some sort of incentive for importers so prices do not increase.
The Investment Policy and Compliance Unit (IPCU) within the Ministry responsible for Investment, Trade, and Commerce spoke about a package of incentives in February of this year. The IPCU continues to say that there will be zero tariffs to businesses that import biodegradable items. They added that they will encourage and support anyone that wants to be part of this initiative as their aim is to facilitate the development of biodegradable goods industry in Belize. This switch is expected to assist Belize in properly managing its solid waste and consolidate its international image as an eco-friendly nation.
Belize made the first step towards the phasing out of plastics and Styrofoam on March 20, 2018, when Cabinet approved a proposal to completely ban these products from the country. This action by the government was made with the purpose to reduce the amount of pollution derived from these products, which poses a hazard to the environment and wildlife.

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