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Softly, softly approach to be taken to single-use plastics ban, minister promises

Micro plastics - tiny fragments of plastic waste - collected in a coastal clean-up by staff from professional services firm EY (File photograph)

Ways to support businesses as the island moves to end single-use plastics will be looked at, the Government has said.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, explained that it was planned to implement the change in a way that allowed the best results for environment and health, but the least economic impact.

Mr Roban said that in addition to realistic phase-out periods and allowances for plastic items that do not have alternatives, measures would be considered to support affected businesses.

He added: “We will be arranging meetings with those that may be most affected, particularly grocery stores, importers, the hospitality industry, restaurants and caterers and retail outlets, to obtain their feedback.

“In addition, we will be exploring the different ways in which government can assist businesses to manage the move away from single-use plastic, such as altering import tariffs to minimise any economic impacts.

“We will also continue with public education campaigns designed to support the behavioural changes that will be required from all of us.”

Mr Roban admitted: “Moving away from the current heavy reliance on single-use plastic will not be an easy task, but it is one that can be successfully tackled with sufficient collaboration, public education, and leadership.”

The Government earlier announced that it would ban the importation of single-use plastics in a phased approach.

Mr Roban told the House of Assembly last Friday that the results of public consultation on plastics had been “unequivocal”.

He said: “A large majority, some three-quarters of all respondents, were supportive of the policy to regulate the use of single-use plastics.

“The small minority of the remaining quarter of respondents were evenly split between either expressing a neutral or mixed message or expressing an unsupportive stance towards the policy.

“Notwithstanding the very favourable public view of the policy paper, the results were thematically analysed to give us an understanding not only of how and why there was support for the policy but also where there may be challenges or misgivings.”

Mr Roban added that many of the responses that expressed reservations about the proposal were focused on the cost of ending single-use plastics.

He said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains and made sourcing products generally more difficult.

“This was also highlighted as a concern – finding replacement items that are not single- use plastic – with comments that it is important to not ban items that may not have alternatives available.

“Other commentators raised the issue of whether alternatives to single-use plastic were as sanitary or safe, with others asserting that foodstuffs that are not packaged in plastic potentially could have a shorter shelf-life and therefore lead to potentially more wastage, again driving up costs.

“Finally, others noted the need for plastic-packaged goods, such as water, in times of national disasters such as hurricanes.”

Mr Roban added that other people had suggested retailers could reduce the need for single-use plastics by encouraging customers to bring in their own containers.

He said: “Many businesses are already adopting some these approaches and I have no doubt that many more will do so.”

Mr Roban added that a document that detailed public views on single-use plastics would be released on the Bermuda Government Forum page soon.

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Published March 21, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated March 21, 2022 at 7:24 am)

Softly, softly approach to be taken to single-use plastics ban, minister promises

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