The following are the remarks made by the Hon. Daryl Vaz At a Press Briefing held on Dec. 31st 2018:
I wish to start by thanking members of the media who have made themselves available this morning. We appreciate your interest in this issue and thank you for partnering with us to give the public important information on this matter.
January 1st, 2019 represents an important date in Jamaica’s fight against environmental degradation, and against the scourge of plastic pollution that affects not only Jamaica, but indeed the globe.
This morning as I address concerns which have been raised in the public domain regarding the impending measures aimed at particular Plastic Packaging Materials, I wish to remind us that change is never easy.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself” – Leo Tolstoy.
This morning, I stand before you both humbled and proud. I wish to once again ask all stakeholders and all citizens to join with us on this mission to protect and improve this rock we all call home.
The country will recall that on the 17th September 2018, I announced on behalf of the Government of Jamaica a policy position on the regulation of specific categories of plastic packaging materials.
In this regard, a ban was announced on:
(i) the importation, manufacturing, distribution and use of single-use plastic carrier bags of a specified dimension, namely those bags commonly referred to locally as ‘scandal’ or ‘T-shirt’ bags;
(ii) the importation and manufacture of expanded polystyrene finished products used in the food and beverage industry; and
(iii) the importation and manufacture of disposable plastic drinking straws.
Additionally, exemptions to the ban on these various categories of packaging were also announced as well as the development of an exemption mechanism surrounding the Policy.
Since that time, several public sector agencies, including my own Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation; the National Environment and Planning Agency; the Ministry 2 of Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries have been working feverishly to effect the Government’s policy, including the implementation of a robust public education and awareness campaign to influence behavioural change.
The stakeholder engagement has included meetings with several of the affected sector groupings: the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA); the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC); the National Consumers League of Jamaica, individual manufacturers, importers, and distributors, entrepreneurs involved in the importation and distributive trade, service clubs such as Kiwanis & Rotary, schools as well as community groups across Jamaica, and most recently with the Gleaner Editorial Forum on Friday, 21 December, 2018.
The government is extremely pleased with the overwhelming national reaction and response to the policy announcement which has been extremely positive. The support is estimated at 90% coming from the sector groups, despite some concerns, stakeholders and consumers in general.
A critical element related to the implementation of the ban is the Jamaica Information Service (JIS)/NEPA-executed programme of public dialogue, consultation with sector groups to explain all aspects of the policy announcement and a public education campaign to sensitize and educate the public, as well as to develop an exemption mechanism surrounding the policy.
Effective immediately, all stocks of single use plastic bags of dimension 24”x24” and thickness of 1.2 mils or less and disposable plastic straws should be embargoed by manufacturers, importers and distributors in a manner as prescribed by the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority. It is recommended that retailers contact their suppliers regarding unused inventories of these items to facilitate the Government’s determination with respect to the type and method of compensation that will be applied.
Note: There are some businesses which have yet to receive their alternative packaging supplies and have a small amount in stock. We have seen evidence of their supplies arriving late January to February.
Based on the international trade system, to avoid breakdown and dislocation in the system, we are allowing these companies that have small amounts of stocks to use them until their supply arrives.
Important to note The NEPA established a dedicated email address: email@example.com and hotline 876-285-8531- both to provide information to and communicate with the general public. I am advised that to date the Agency has received 250 emails – all which have received responses. Two hundred (200) calls to the hotline which have been appropriately answered and guidance provided. This represented the first tool for Public Education.
The Public education campaign has included virtually all mainstream media channels, with Public Service Announcements and Advertising throughout the period. Approximately $25 million of media placements have been made.
As one will recall, what was announced in September was indeed a phased, implementation of this ban, which will span to 2019 to 2021. As such the Public Education campaign will continue through the period. Some of the important facets of the next phase of public education will include:
– Meetings/engagements in the market district, where reusable bags to the tune of 30,000 will be distributed by local government representatives and questions fields
– Engagement on public transport
– An extensive Digital media campaign
– Continued Advertisement Placements in the traditional media
Today, I am pleased to announce that two Ministerial Orders have been gazetted, one under the Trade Act and the other under the Natural Resources and Conservation Authority (NRCA) Act. These Orders provide the regulatory framework to support the policy measure announced.
The maximum fine under the Trade Act (Trade Plastic Packing Material Order) 2018, is Two Million Dollars ($2M), while under the NRCA (Plastic Packaging Prohibiting) Order 2018, the fine is Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000). Both Orders carry a term of imprisonment of two (2) years, respectively.
Since the September announcement, imports of Plastic Bags have been to the tune of $850 million Jamaican Dollars. We are unable to decipher, what of that amount would be affected by the ban, based on the fact that the Asycudo code covers all plastic bags.
Customs has given me the assurance that imports which come under this code in Asycudo will be flagged for physical inspections.
“The Orders” will be enforced islandwide by a number of regulatory agencies working together and independently, namely: the NEPA, the Jamaica Customs Agency, the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority, the National Solid Waste Management Authority, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force. I make this point because there is no need for a designated enforcement team. These entities already interact with the distributive trade and manufacturing sector extensively and daily.
At this juncture I wish to make the point that success of this policy is dependent, on a partnership between each and every citizen, not based on fines and prosecution. We will all need to do our part.
This policy initiative seeks to secure our collective future, by taking an all-important step to protect the environment. Fines, Punitive measure, without willingness for us to confront what we have allowed to become cultural norms simply won’t see us achieving what these policies have set out. What I am asking this morning Jamaica, is for partnership, rather than using the “big stick” approach.
An issue which has been raised regarding whether or not the policy implementation has been rushed should be aware of the global context.
I am also pleased to advise that the domestic market has responded positively to the policy announcement with a number of companies and individuals developing and providing alternatives to single-use plastic bags and straws. In fact, the policy has triggered great interest from indigenous manufacturers to be in the forefront of creating alternatives to the banned products. The Government is also pleased that a number of private sector companies have purchased and made available alternatives such as reusable bags, not only to their customers, but also to the wider public.
The following alternatives are already in place (HM to display) with more to come on stream.
In short order, the Government also hopes to announce the measures to be taken to regulate plastic bottles, particularly PET bottles.
These policy measures being instituted by the Government, with the support of several stakeholders as well as the general public, is in line with the global thrust to minimize single-use plastic packaging. The indiscriminate disposal of single-use plastics, which can take up to several decades to degrade, has been known to have a negative effect on our environment, particularly our marine and coastal environments which play a key role in the country’s economic development as well as the health and social well-being of our population.
I therefore take this opportunity to call upon all Jamaicans to support this important initiative which will assist in safeguarding public health as well as conserving our environment.
Our dependency as a people on plastics and styrofoam has become an addiction which we must break. But like all addictions it takes time. So, it would be foolhardy for me to stand here and believe that it will happen overnight. What I can say is that as of January 1, 2019, the process will start to reverse the trend of increasing the dependency and usage of plastics and Styrofoam, significantly reducing and eventually phasing out sooner than later.
Importantly the success of this landmark policy will be dependent on the cooperation and buy-in of every single citizen of Jamaica doing and playing their part. This policy is long overdue, and I stand here not as a Minister but as A PROUD JAMAICAN CITIZEN DOING MY PART at ensuring we preserve Jamaica’s environment for the benefit of generations to come.