Jamaica Will See Benefits Of Plastics And Polystyrene Ban

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A report from The Jamaica Information Service.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says the benefits to be derived from the ban on single-use plastics and polystyrene foam will materialise over the medium to long-term.

He noted that as the society adjusts to the measure “you are going to see less plastics [and polystyrene] littering our communities and roads”.

Additionally, he said “it is going to create opportunities for innovative business people to fill the demand [for alternatives].”

The Prime Minister was speaking during the just-concluded Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) 15th Regional Investment and Capital Markets Seminar, at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

The ban on single-use plastics, implemented in January 2019, relates to the importation, manufacture and use of plastic bags of dimensions 24”x 24” and thickness of 1.2 millimetres or less; the importation, manufacture and use of plastic drinking straws, except those attached to juice boxes and tetrapaks as well as straws utilised by the medical sector and the disabled community.

Effective January 1, 2020, the Government imposed a ban on the local manufacture, distribution and use of expanded polystyrene foam products, commonly called styrofoam, which is utilised in the food and beverage industry.

The measures form part of broader initiatives aimed at safeguarding the environment.

Mr. Holness said there has been “incredible” public support for the ban.

“I see people coming out of the supermarkets and they are now carrying their (environmentally friendly) bags. Additionally, if they get a nice big plastic shopping bag from overseas, they don’t throw it away; they keep it and reuse it. So [persons] are finding alternatives,” he said.

He said there is also strong support for the Government’s project targeting the planting of three million trees over the next three years, particularly from corporate stakeholders.

“Three million trees will not necessarily mark a massive increase in our reforestation effort, but it is a start. It will help to sequester carbon dioxide, restore some of our mangroves, stabilise some of our steep hillsides, and it will generally improve the aesthetics of the country. We invite all Jamaicans to join in that effort,” he said.

Pointing to other measures being undertaken to safeguard the environment, Mr. Holness said that consideration is being given to how best to manage motor vehicle emissions and determine the allowable standards.

‘We’re not there yet, but the Government is in this advanced process of thinking it through. We will have to have a policy for the full introduction of electric vehicles… and we are now developing that policy… thinking it through as to what that will mean,” he said.

He contended that within a few years, electric vehicles will overtake the number of petroleum-powered units being manufactured, and “we need to get on that train right away… [as] we don’t want to be left behind”.

Mr. Holness said that Jamaica also has to look at a future where it is not dependent on oil.

“We have abundant sunshine… we have areas with very good wind flow and we have the potential to do pumped hydro storage electricity generation,” he said.

The Prime Minister said steps in this regard are already under way, citing as examples, the Wigton Windfarm in Manchester, and the recent commissioning of the Caribbean’s largest solar plant in Paradise, Westmoreland.

He pointed out that approximately 17 per cent of Jamaica’s electricity output is currently powered by renewable options, noting that with recent infrastructural developments, this could increase to as much as 19 per cent.

“It is quite possible [that we could be] generating 50 per cent of our electricity from renewables or even more as technology improves. The Government is carefully planning out the pathway to get to this point… in another five years or 10 years. The possibilities exist [and] we are examining all of those,” Mr. Holness said.

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