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Government promises to listen to retailers over single use plastic transition concerns

Debris and plastic found on one of the island's beaches (File photograph)

Retailers concerns about a proposed ban on single-use plastics will be heard, the Government said this week.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, said at a press conference that he was pleased by the feedback that had already been received as part of the consultation on the proposed ban.

Mr Roban said: “We know that they have questions and they want to know and understand how this transition is going to impact their bottom line and the costs that they are exposed to.

“That is the very reason why we have taken time to have the consultation in the way that we have, and I have made a commitment that I am not going to take this proposal forward, unless I feel that every voice has been heard and every opportunity for consultation, has been completed.

“I am particularly concerned about our retailers and those in the service industry that rely heavily on plastics for their business.”

He said he wanted to ensure that whatever transition is made did not cause a major risk to retailers’ bottom line, and he was pleased by the “frankness” of the feedback the Ministry had already received.

Mr Roban praised the businesses that had already begun to make changes such as adopting the use of biodegradable containers and non-plastic straws.

He said: “I applaud those who are already making the step because they clearly understand and appreciate the need to reduce the use of single use plastics.

“I also know that it’s a harder transition for some, so that’s why we want to work with them.”

Mr Roban said that other island nations have already successfully introduced mandates to reduce or eliminate the use of single-use plastics.

He said: “We as an island want to make a similar transition in a way that the whole country can be comfortable with, but we still reach the goals that we want to reach.

“We see what’s happening in the ocean around us. We see what is washing up on our shores. It’s clear we all have a role to play taking these steps.”

Single-use plastics on the chopping block

The Policy Paper on regulating single-use plastics in Bermuda proposed a wide range of items including plastic bags – although the paper said careful consideration must be given to the “definition and scope” of a bag ban.

The list also includes:

· Styrofoam products, including food service containers, hot and cold beverage cups and egg cartons.

· Plastic utensils, including cups, lids, straws and stirrers.

· Plastic trays, including those used by grocers for fruit, meat and vegetables.

· Plastic water bottles – with possible exceptions for large plastic water bottles that are returned and refilled.

· Single-serving “food sachets” used for condiments.

· Plastic-lined paper cups and food containers.

· Products containing microplastics, such as industrial abrasives used in sandblasting and facial scrubs with microbeads.

· Single-use beverage pods, such as Keurig cups.

· Plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

· Oxo-degradable plastic and biodegradable plastic.

According to a Policy Paper released by the Government this summer, a ban on single-use plastics and styrofoam products could be introduced next year.

The paper proposes that the listed items initially be banned from importation, with businesses given a window of time to use up any stock already on island.

The window would be followed with a ban on the sale and distribution of the SUPs, along with a ban on the release of helium-filled balloons outdoors.

The document highlighted the environmental risks of plastic pollution and warned that recycling or repurposing plastics was difficult.

It said recycling was hindered by the low cost of “virgin” plastic compared to recycled plastic and China’s decision to end imports of “recyclable” plastic – much of which was landfilled or burnt for electricity.

The paper said: “Recycling and repurposing plastics are both very difficult. Rates of ‘recycling’ or repurposing plastics worldwide are very low.

“In Bermuda’s context in particular, we have no installed manufacturing base to accept potentially ‘recyclable’ plastics.

“So there is only one conclusion – the actions required to overcome the problems associated with plastics, and SUPs in particular, lie in reducing the use of plastics in the first place.”

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Published October 15, 2021 at 7:54 am (Updated October 15, 2021 at 7:43 am)

Government promises to listen to retailers over single use plastic transition concerns

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