Daryl Vaz, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation with responsibility for Land, Environment, Climate Change and Investments, in giving an update on the ban on plastics in Parliament Tuesday, said the Government would be taking enforcement of the ban seriously to safeguard the environment.
“Let me reiterate, the Government will be taking strong enforcement action against those persons and companies that do not comply with the ban,” said Vaz, stating that the Jamaica Customs Agency has also held firm at the ports of entry, confiscating banned items and preventing them from entering the trade.
According to the minister, while prosecution is never the preferred strategy, the Government saw the need to put fines in place for those individuals and entities who are non-compliant and ensure that the legislation was available should enforcement of the ban become a challenge.
The maximum fine under the Trade Act (Trade Plastic Packing Material Order) 2018, is $2 million, while under the National Resource Conservation Authority (Plastic Packaging Prohibiting) Order 2018, the fine is $50,000.
Both orders carry a term of imprisonment of two years.
“Unfortunately, to date, six businesses have been fined under The Natural Resources Conservation Authority (Plastic Packaging Materials Prohibition) Order, 2018,” noted Vaz.
He said some 30 other businesses and individuals will face the courts in the coming weeks, for a total of 36 businesses prosecuted up to Tuesday.
In addition, warning notices, the minister said, were issued to non-compliant persons and companies before enforcement action was taken.
Under phase two of the ban, which came into effect on January 1, restrictions have been placed on the manufacturing, distribution and use of expanded polystyrene foam (styrofoam) products in the food and beverage industry.
Vaz also gave a brief update on the upcoming third phase which includes plastic PET bottles, recycling and the Deposit Refund Scheme.
He said the Government was extremely pleased with the positive national reaction and response to the policy announcement, stating that the support was estimated at over 90 per cent coming from the sector groups, other stakeholders and consumers in general.
“Clear evidence of the positive response is the rapid disappearance of single-use plastic bags and plastic straws from the trade and the pronounced behaviour change and attitude coming from the Jamaican people,” Vaz said.