While Commerce Minister Irfan Ali talked about a “definite ban,” that would take effect from June 1, 2014; Environment Minister, Robert Persaud later toned down his language and opted for “restriction” at a consultation held at Duke Lodge, Kingston, Georgetown.
The Private Sector Commission (PSC) and the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) have both endorsed the plan to significantly scale back the importation of the Styrofoam.
Government ministers and participants acknowledged the need for a “stronger enforcement” mechanism involving the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to catch illegal importers of Styrofoam containers as well as clamp down on litter bugs.
Authorities decided to block the importation of those containers because of public health and environmental concerns. Persaud hoped that the ban would help create job opportunities for the manufacture of cardboard food boxes. “When we talk about the ban, it is not to take away anything but rather it is a step to give our people more opportunities but also to give them healthy surroundings,” he said.
Plastic bags and plastic bottles
The Environment Minister blamed the combined opposition for blocking the imposition of the environmental tax on all plastic containers and bags being imported to Guyana. “In a very incomprehensive and uncaring to the environment move the opposition deployed its one-seat majority and killed the regulation,” he said.
He later told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) that steps would be taken to impose the 10 percent environmental tax on plastic bags.
Proprietor of Global Investments, Dharam Shankar told the consultation said he was somewhat disappointed with the time-frame to ban Styrofoam to make financial arrangements for purchasing biodegradable food containers. He disagreed that Styrofoam containers were responsible for blocking drains because they float rather than sink. “I think that is an advantage of Styrofoam because we can get it out of the water but with the material that sinks you can’t get them out- all the plastic bags that go at the bottom and clog the drains, these are what we can’t get out,” he said.
Chief Operating Officer of Caribbean Container Inc; Patricia Bacchus told the forum that her company last year began importing biodegradable food packaging but the market has been slow. “Unfortunately, the sale of that product line has not moved as we anticipated. The retail price variance between the Eco Pak line and the Styrofoam line is minimal,” she said.
She said that Caribbean Container could satisfy the market demand for biodegradable food containers.