Environmental Protection (Pollution from Plastics) Regulations signed into Law
Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
The importation and manufacture of single-use plastic and Styrofoam products have now been banned following the signing into law of the Environmental Protection (Pollution from Plastics) Regulations. The new regulation is geared at reducing the amount of plastic and Styrofoam that ends up in our landfills was officially signed on Tuesday, January 14th by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, Sustainable Development and Immigration, Honorable Godwin Hulse. This comes after an almost two-year-long appeal by environmentalists and commitment by the Government of Belize (GOB) to safeguard the natural environment.
Over the past years, Belize has seen significant growth, and with it came the alarming issue of garbage control. One of the most harmful components to the environment tossed out as garbage are single-use plastics and Styrofoam as such, the Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Investment, Trade, and Commerce, and the Ministry of Tourism led a collaborative task force comprising of the Department of the Environment, Customs Department, Beltraide, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, and Solid Waste Management Authority to advance a proposal to Cabinet to reduce plastic and Styrofoam pollution through the phasing out of single-use plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam and plastic food utensils by April 22, 2019. Cabinet approved the original proposal on March 20, 2018. “The purpose of these regulations is to carry out Cabinet’s decision to reduce plastic and Styrofoam pollution through the phasing out of single-use plastics, including shopping bags and Styrofoam and plastic food utensils. This decision was made as a necessary pollution control measure to protect the terrestrial and marine environment from harmful plastic contamination. These regulations have undergone months of legislative drafting and re-drafting, and have been subjected to an extensive consultation period with regulators and stakeholders from the private sector such as importers, manufacturers, and producers of single-use plastics,” explained GOB in a press release issued to announce the signing of the Environmental Protection Regulations.
According to the regulations, these are the following items that will be prohibited by law: Single-use Styrofoam and plastic “clamshells,” Single-use Styrofoam and plastic plates, bowls, and cups and lids, Single-use plastic forks, knives, spoons, sporks, and cutlery, Single-use plastic carrier bags commonly referred to as shopping bags and/or T-shirt bags, and Single-use plastic drinking straws. Through legislation, the above persons will not be allowed to import, manufacture, sell or be in possession of the above-mentioned items.
And while the regulations came into effect as of Wednesday, January 15th, certain allowance will still be extended. According to the regulations, importers have three months to enact the legislation and manufacturers have six months to end all production of the banned items. Regarding stores, the sales of these products most come to an end in nine months, and overall, anyone in the procession of the listed items must adhere to regulations before the year is up.
Here in San Pedro Town, many businesses have already switched to bio-degradable options, however, the widespread change is slow coming, and many are complaining about the extra cost that comes with the alternative. “Pollution from single-use plastics has become a major problem globally and in Belize. Recent scientific studies have shown that plastics and/or microplastics have entered all levels of the food chain within our oceans, and in Belize is impacting the natural environment, drainage, and waterway. Most Plastics do not biodegrade – meaning they do not breakdown / decompose as a result of natural processes or microorganisms into harmless substances into the natural environment,” said DOE.
Everyone is encouraged to take the necessary steps to reduce single-use of plastic and Styrofoam products by using reusable shopping bags and food containers. For more information on the Environmental Protection Regulations, visit www.doe.gov.bz.
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