Jamaica Government Announces Ban on Some Plastics and Polystyrene Foam

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The Government of Jamaica has announced a ban on the importation, manufacture and distribution of three types of plastic products effective January 1, 2019.

The historic move is part of a phased process of reducing the country’s use of plastics and plastic-based products and to regulate specific categories of plastic packaging materials.

Minister with Responsibility for the Environment, Hon. Daryl Vaz made the announcement today (September 17) during a press briefing at Jamaica House.

Measures to be implemented are as follows:

  1. Single Use Plastic Carrier/Shopping Bags

As at January 1, 2019, the Government will impose a ban on the import, manufacture, distribution and use of all single-use plastic carrier bags with dimensions at and below 24 inches by 24 inches (24”x24”), which includes those bags commonly referred to locally as ‘scandal bags’ and ‘T-shirt bags’, used primarily in the retail and wholesale sectors.

Minister Vaz stated that manufacturers and importers of single-use shopping bags made of polyethylene, and such products must apply to the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) for limited exemptions. These applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis for continued manufacture and importation, allowable not later than January 1, 2021.

  1. Expanded Polystyrene Foam

Commencing January 1, 2019, the Government will institute a ban on the importation of expanded measures to regulate specific categories of plastic packaging materials polystyrene foam, commonly referred to as ‘Styrofoam™’, for use as finished goods in the food and beverage industry, that is, food and beverage containers. In addition, the local manufacture and distribution of polystyrene foam for use as finished goods in the food and beverage industry will be banned as at January 1, 2020.

Minister Vaz added that the use of polystyrene for the packaging of food items such as raw meats will be exempt. However, producers of products which utilize such packaging must apply to NEPA for limited exemptions.

  1. Plastic Straws

As at January 1, 2019, a ban will be instituted on the import and manufacture of plastic drinking straws. There will be no ban on wax-lined paper straws or other non-plastic straws. The importation of straws attached to lunch juice boxes and drink pouches will be banned as of January 1, 2021.

Minister Vaz noted that consultations were held with several stakeholders in the industry.

The meetings were facilitated through the Multi-Sectoral Working Group, established by Cabinet last year, along with representatives from the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

In the meantime, Minister Vaz said the Government is seeking to devise a Deposit Refund Scheme supported by legislation to address the use and recycling of polyethylene terephthalate or PET bottles.

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