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Marty Offline OP
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The Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Commerce, and the Ministry of Tourism led a collaborative taskforce comprising the Department of the Environment, Customs Department, Beltraide, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, and Solid Waste Management Authority to advance a proposal to Cabinet to reduce plastic and Styrofoam pollution through the phasing out of single-use plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam and plastic food utensils by April 22, 2019. The proposal was approved by Cabinet at its sitting today, 20th March 2018.

The phasing out of plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam and plastic food utensils, such as clamshells, flat plates and cups, is a necessary pollution control measure to protect the terrestrial and marine environment from harmful plastic contamination. Biodegradable alternatives to the plastic and Styrofoam products already exist on the Belizean market in the form of shopping bags, clamshells, coffee cups and plates manufactured from plant-based materials.

Plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam clamshells are used by the average person for only a few minutes before they are thrown away where they can last for decades in the landfill or as litter on the side of highways, in rivers, along coastlines and in the sea, causing harm to wildlife and fishes vulnerable to choking on plastic pieces. The annual clean-up cost of this pollution is considerable and is borne by volunteers, government and civil society groups. In the municipal waste stream, plastic and Styrofoam comprise about 19% of the volume, and therefore 19% of the cost of national solid waste management.

Globally, plastic and Styrofoam pollution is a major concern. Large floating debris piles have formed in the Caribbean Sea and other major water bodies. These international waste debris are not only difficult to track, as they migrate with ocean currents, but they are prohibitively costly to clean up, some ending up on the Belize Barrier Reef. With the second largest barrier reef in the world, Belize is doing its part to reduce marine pollution and protect the natural environment that is the foundation of our vibrant tourism industry.

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The Nuts and Bolts of Disposable Styrofoam and Plastics Ban

We always see those Department of the Environment ads about keeping the place clean, recycling and using biodegradable products instead of those Styrofoam plates and utensils. Well, those messages are more than just public announcements now. As we told you last night, Cabinet approved a proposal to phase out single-use plastic shopping bags, Styrofoam and plastic food utensils by next year April.

And by "phase out'', the plan is that there won't be any of these products on the market in country. It is a major change but the CEO in the Ministry of Environment says it is necessary to keep the environment clean and wildlife safe. Dr. Percival Cho told us more about the ban and the alternative products that will replace the foam containers.

Dr. Percival Cho, CEO, Ministry of Environment
"What we have done we have put together a task force to look at what really and truly is happening with the use of these shopping bags, these plastic bags in particular the Styrofoam utensils: forks, knifes and straws and so we did a survey of the level of usage in the country and it was quantified so we looked at different recommendations as to how we can begin to phase out the use of these harmful plastic and Styrofoam pieces of supplies."

"There is some debate in terms of the pollution aspect of the chemicals that are used to make these plastics and Styrofoam. Whereas they might be considered relatively safe, the articles themselves and how they disintegrate and break up into pieces when we throw them away, those little pieces tend to be harmful to wildlife and fishes and other things."

"In addition to the negative effects on wildlife, there is just the unsightly and costly aspect of plastic and Styrofoam pollution."

"Within the year we expect to see the decrease in importation of these articles and by April 2019 the idea being to completely phase out the importation of these articles in Belize so they simply won't be available."

"There are alternatives to Styrofoam and plastic supplies on the market already. There is the plant based clam shells, I don't know if you have seen them before, those are biodegradable, they are plant based, there are also the plant based shopping bags."

Courtney Weatherburne, reporter
"Is there going to be any public awareness campaign to really go out into the communities?"

Dr. Percival Cho
"Absolutely, the phasing out period is set for a year and we have set earth day 2019 as the end date for this phasing out so during this year, beyond the consultations so far we have done at this point, we will continue to develop a public awareness campaign over the coming year, you will hear jingles, CTV ads, you will see a lot of activity. The main idea being to sensitize the public and really and truly this thing starts with each of us in our households, I think it is a public effort and I think there is a lot of support for it in Belize and that is great to see."

Cho also mentioned that the importation duties on these biodegradable products such as the plant based containers will be reduced so that the cost of acquiring these products doesn't increase food prices.

Channel 7

Joined: Mar 2018
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I am excited to see this initiative! We just returned from our first trip to Belize, and spent the last 6 days on Ambergris Caye. We travelled most of the island, including along the beach to Rocky Point, where the reef meets the island, and was appalled at the amount of plastic and other trash on the beach. As avid recyclers for many years, we wanted to find out how we could help, but could not find anywhere to return plastic bottles. We ended up bringing all plastic bags home with us to recycle here, and often refused them at vendors since we always had a backpack we could use. It amazed me that even street vendors were handing out so many bags and food containers, which must add a cost to their business.

We are now looking at investing in Belize, and living there part time, and I am very interested in finding ways to help improve the environment in this wonderful country.

Shawn Wright
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 5,563
You will be a welcome asset to our island. I hope to be back in two weeks and getting recycling going is one of my goals.

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Marty Offline OP
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No More Styrofoam Plates. But Then What?

Lately we have been hearing a lot about going green especially now that the government plans to eliminate the use of Styrofoam containers. It is a big deal for many businesses - mostly eateries - that have relied on the cheap styrofoam for decades. Many of them are hesitant and unsure of how to move forward. 

But, there are a few places in the city that have already made the switch and are reaping the benefits. Sahar Vasquez found out how going green can save money, and a whole lot more. 

Many Belizean Companies are jumping on the Eco-Friendly bandwagon and going green by replacing toxic styrofoam and plastic with healthy biodegradable materials. It is something that NGOs have been promoting for decades but now that it may become mandatory businesses are taking it seriously. One place that hasn’t jumped on the Band Wagon is the Radisson.  It’s not that they disagree with the earth saving idea, they are, in fact, leading the bandwagon.

The hotel has been green for about ten years. General Manager Jim Scott started the movement when he first arrived and from there it has flourished from biodegradable cups and plates to a big recycling station. The hotel recycles everything from your coffee grounds to the soap used by guests.

Pat Lamb - Director of Sales/Radisson
"What we have been doing over the years is everything coming out of the rooms we sort through them and we see what we can recycle from the rooms soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotion. All of those things are sanitized. The soaps are bagged off a recycle logo goes on them and then we donate them to schools and different organizations that take care of seniors and people who are in need. The paper we do trays with paper. We sell the coffee grounds that come from our brewed coffee. Being a hotel and additionally, with Le Petite we have a huge amount of coffee grounds. It is very good for composting. If you are dealing with soil. We sell those as well. All the bottles you can think of wine bottles, glass bottles, pepper sauce. Everything you can think of we sell.”

And the money they make from selling the recycled materials is used not for the hotel but for the staff.

Pat Lamb
"The funds of all these things that we sell we put them in a fund for staff and in December all of the money we have made from the sale through the year we use it to purchase groceries. We give it out to our staff for their Christmas."

The famous Le Petit Cafe has been serving their sweet treats and hot coffee in and on Biodegradable for years.

Jim Scott - GM, Radisson
"The cups are all paper-based so they are bio-degradable, the box containers are biodegradable. We use wax paper and the bags that look like plastic bags are actually made from corn compost. It looks like plastic but they are biodegradable as well. The forks, the little plastic looking forks and knives and spoons that are in Le Petite those are all bio-degradable and those are all Eco-Friendly products. The pastry boxes that we have are paper and those are biodegradable. We get that from another supplier so again instead of using the plastic their may still be a few products that we have to use plastic bags but I am pretty sure we have gotten rid of it."

But Scott says it is neither cheap nor easy going green, but it is worth it because of the positive effect it has not just on the environment but on the customers.

Jim Scott
"Being green right now and being green for the last ten years has not been cheap or easy. It comes with a lot of education, it comes with a lot of education. It comes with a lot of training. The alternative products that are available to us and have been available to us are sometimes ten to a hundred times more expensive than a plastic or styrofoam option so yea there is a lot of challenges and then I mentioned the training part, the people involved our team our staff are in tune and understand why we don't use plastic and why we use other products takes a lot of work, a lot of energy to change people habits and mindsets when it comes to going green but it is worth it."

The Radisson hotel is a shining example of an environmentally friendly place but they are not the only ones making green moves.

The majority of the food from the famous eatery Chon Saan no longer comes in a styrofoam plate, instead, it comes in a reusable container, and owner Lee Mark Chang says it is not only more eco-friendly it is also 100 times more presentable than the sloppy styrofoam.

Lee Mark Chang - Manager, Chon Saan Palace
"We have already prepared ourselves and have been trying to move away from foam for a number of years. For example, we used to use these for our Chop Suey containers, instead of the regular foam containers and it used to have the partition where you have you stir-fried food and your fries. We have graduated to using these ones where it is more presentable and nicer."

Chang says when they made the switch to the fancy new reusable containers many customers were resistant because they felt they were getting less food but he made it clear that each plate can carry the same and at times more food than the styrofoam.

Lee Mark Chang
"A lot of customers always complain and say this one hold more than this one. They are actually both the same. They are the same. We have done tests. I showed you a test with the reusable containers we used for Fried Rice and Chow Mien hold the exact same. These containers avoid spillage when we deliver but now we wanted to do a nicer presentation so we starting using these. These are both 30-ounce containers and they hold the same."

Now instead of buying brand new containers, many customers are collecting the Chon Saan ones and using them for anything they can.

Mark Chang
"Yes, I do believe a lot of my customers are reusing them and I have been told they reuse them. I was just talking with a friend of mine and he said he has about fifty of them stacked up at home. I told him he can make sure he uses them or he can give them back to me and I could make sure I clean them up and reuse them again They are very sturdy, even with the hot temperature food they don't budge or melt. They are also microwavable also."

Perhaps the best part is that the change in the container has not affected the price of food.

Mark Chang
"The prices are usually raised because of the gas cost or vegetable cost that goes up but apart from that we don't raise our prices because of the containers. Our prices were set already before we got the containers."

Sahar Vasquez
"So if something was 22. 50 just because it is a different container your not going to raise the price?"

Mark Chang
"No no, it stays and I stress again we make sure it is the same amount of food that they are getting."

So, going green may not be easy or complication free, but it has its own benefits, for business, for the planet and everyone on it.

So, where can you get these products? Tomorrow we’ll show you the eco-friendly company that imports a variety environmentally friendly items. 

Channel 7

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The Bio-Degradable Solution

Yesterday we showed you two different food and hospitality businesses that are eliminating styrofoam by using biodegradable and reusable items.

But, where are these environmentally friendly items available and for what price? We found that Belize has an Eco-Friendly company that has been importing container-fulls of environmentally friendly products for years. Sahar Vasquez has more:

Sahar Vasquez reporting
Eco- Friendly Solutions is a Belizean company that imports and distributes biodegradable items like cutlery and bags. You may not know them by name but It is almost certain that you have seen their products at the Le Petite bakery or on shelves at some stores.

The company has actually been opened for ten years and General Manager Luis Garcia says the first five years were not easy. The environmentally friendly company struggled but now it's paying off.

Luis Garcia, General Manager- Eco-Friendly Solutions
"The products that we were bringing, were bags, some plates all made out of starch which is mostly corn also from other plant-based starch. Pretty much at that time, we were selling a container in three years. It wasn't really a good business but we never gave up. I think the time will come when people in Belize will change their attitudes towards the environment and start using the alternatives which are biodegradable disposables."

Indeed that did happen. Now the company that took three years to sell one container is doing it in four to five months and their product offerings have expanded dramatically.

Luis Garcia
"We started with just a couple of plates and bags. Now we have the entire line of garbage bags, shopping bags, we have the clamp shells, forks and spoons, we also have the cups and we are extending our line to meet the market."

But how does it all work? Why are these biodegradable items so good for the environment?

Luis Garcia
"Our products work like a leaf, they are dumped in the environment. It is just that it takes longer. For example, our products have a coating that protects them from breaking down."

"We use these products that are starch based on a coating that protects them so that they can be a year or two in storage. It is the moment that you put them out in the environment, that protection disappears in when the process of integration starts. It is like a leaf it starts breaking down in the dirt at turn back into dirt."

"You can compost them. If you grab one of our plates and put it in a compost it will break down in less than a month."

But biodegradable is not the only thing the company is doing, they also have technology that is able to make swimming pools chemical free. Yes, that means no more chlorine just pure clean sanitized water.

Luis Garcia
"We use the technology of glass filtration instead of sand and we also use titanium and copper as the treatment. Copper becomes your sanitizer replacing chlorine or salt and then the titanium breaks the molecules of water and makes a lot of oxygen creating oxygenated water in your pool."

"It is water that you can drink, water that is well sanitized, it is water that is very healthy, and it is chemical free."

Now that the demand for environmentally friendly products is only increasing Eco- Friendly Solutions will have a lot of competition but Garcia is confident in his product.

Luis Garcia
"We don't only offer bio-degradable, it is part of our business. We are concerned about who is going to be in the competition but pretty much we are welcoming it and I think that if the playing field is where we will be able to meet the market."

If you would like to learn more about the company you can visit their Eco-Friendly Solutions Facebook page or call them at 222-5083.

Channel 7

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Marty Offline OP
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Phasing Out Single-Use Plastic and Styrofoam Items

Earlier this year, the government announced a Cabinet decision to reduce the use of single-use plastics and Styrofoam items over a one-year phase-out period. The intent is to decrease plastic and Styrofoam pollution. One of the key components to the phase-out is the cutback in the importation of these single-use plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam and plastic food utensils. Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Doctor Percival Cho, told the press today that several meetings have been held with importers and local producers.

Dr. Percival Cho, C.E.O., Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development

"The task force that has been to execute this phase is currently scheduling these consultations with importer and local producers as well, one on one discussion and that is ongoing at the moment. These things that we are targeting are completely avoidable pieces of waste. It is not necessary to use single use bag to take your grocery from shop to home. You can use a more permanent market bags as we use to call them. When it comes to straws, it is not necessary to use plastic straws. There are paper alternatives. When it comes to cups, you have paper alternation. It is not necessary to use plastic. These are all items that can be replaced with much inconvenience being cause. At the same time it takes some behavioral change in the general public to realize that and to ensure that we all operate mindful of the environmental impact that we have."�

The use of these products will be phased out by April 2019.

Channel 5

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Government on track with phasing out single use Styrofoam products

While many are counting down to the ICJ Referendum, there is also the phasing out of Styrofoam products which will take place in April 2019. Many consumers, vendors and wholesalers will be affected by this move. Reporter Dalila Ical has a story on where we are with less than three months to go.

Dalilah Ical: "The phasing out of single use plastics and styrofoam items launched officially on April 22nd coinciding with Earth day. Maxine Monsanto, Environmental Officer in the Environmental Law and Policy Unit in the Department of the Environment says the legislation needed to make their timeline will soon be in place.

Maxine Monsanto Environmental Officer: "Currently where we are we are at the drafting stage of the legislation and it is at the Solicitor General's Office, their legislative drafters are working on it and we expect to have a draft for consultation soon.

Dalilah Ical: The legislation includes proposed dates for the enforcement of importation production and the sale of these items but these are not yet being made public.

Maxine Monsanto Environmental Officer: We are calling it a phased in approach but if you look at laws there are enactment periods and there are days it comes in to force so while the legislation will be in place before the 22nd of April…and that is why the Government announced that but the 22nd of April we will start the process. There will be an enforcement date and that is basically what it is. There will be dates for enforcement so you will have time to transition through this process.

Dalilah Ical: "But even before the phasing out launched some Belizean business have been switching to biodegradable alternatives. Luis Garcia, General Manager of Eco Friendly solutions had accompanied items for the food industry says his sales are looking good.

Luis Garcia General Manager: "The phasing out is a wonderful one. We are preparing for that and the sales in the past two years has increased even before the press release came out but as soon as the press release came out we are now selling to supermarkets which we had never done that before but the moment that the press release came along we are selling to supermarkets and then the consumer can buy at the supermarkets.

Dalilah Ical: "And while there are several questions and concerns from consumers it is a welcoming change for those environmentally conscious.

Luis Garcia General Manager: "There is a lot of positive environmental and health effects that have a value that we don't see that value because you have to purchase it so there is the value that the product is a lot more than what you pay for. These products you can microwave them, you re use use them, you cannot do that with styrofoam because the moment they are in the environment and there in touch with the elements they start breaking down."

Dalilah Ical: A joint press release by Ministry of Economic Development Tourism and Environment last year stated that single use plastic bags styrofoam containers and plastic utensils represent 19% of solid waste volume in the municipal waste stream. Dalila Ical Love News.

The phasing out of Styrofoam products begins on April 22, 2019.


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Plastic bags will soon be banned.

Are you ready for the ban on single-use plastics and styrofoam? It's coming to Belize in April 2019 and the Belize Department of the Environment - DOE wants you to be prepared. Here's how you can be a Smart Shopper!

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