Thee styrofoam ban was announced in March of 2018, but putting into effect has proved difficult. And, now, almost two years later, it was announced that the new regulation come into effect tomorrow. A press release announced that the Minister of the Environment, Godwin Hulse, signed the Environmental Protection (Pollution from Plastics) Regulations, 2020 into law today, and it comes into force tomorrow, January 15th.
These regulations will implement Cabinet's March 2018 decision "to reduce plastic and styrofoam pollution through the phasing out of single-use plastics, including shopping bags and styrofoam and plastic food utensils."
But, if you feel like you've been caught off guard because it;its happening TOMORROW, the release says "the regulations have undergone months of legislative drafting and re-drafting, and have been subjected to an extensive consultation period with regulators and stakeholders from the private sector such as importers, manufacturers and producers of single-use plastics."
You can find the new regulations at the Department of Environment's website at www.doe.gov.bz.
Enactment of Environmental Protection (Pollution from Plastics) Regulation, 2020
Today, January 14th, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, Sustainable Development and Immigration, Hon. Godwin Hulse, signed into law the Environmental Protection (Pollution from Plastics) Regulations, 2020, which comes into force on January 15th, 2020.
The purpose of these regulations is to carry out Cabinet’s decision to reduce plastic and styrofoam pollution through the phasing out of single-use plastics, including shopping bags and styrofoam and plastic food utensils. This decision was made as a necessary pollution control measure to protect the terrestrial and marine environment from harmful plastic contamination.
These regulations have undergone months of legislative drafting and re-drafting, and have been subjected to an extensive consultation period with regulators and stakeholders from the private sector such as importers, manufacturers and producers of single-use plastics.
A copy of the new regulations will be sent for publishing in the Government Gazette, and is available for download from the Department of Environment’s website at www.doe.gov.bz.
This new legislation regulates the importation and manufacture of Restricted Products listed in Schedule I of the regulations through a licensing and permitting process through the Department of the Environment.
The legislation also prohibits the importation, manufacture, sale, and possession of Prohibited Products listed in Schedule II of the Regulations. This Prohibition will be conducted through a transitional process as follows: (a) prohibit the importation of products listed in Schedule II three (3) months after the enactment date of this legislation; (b) prohibit the manufacture of products listed in Schedule II six (6) months after the enactment date of this legislation; (c) prohibit the sale of products listed in Schedule II nine (9) months after the enactment date of this legislation; and (d) prohibit the possession of products listed in Schedule II twelve (12) months after the enactment date of this legislation.
The list of single-use plastic products to be prohibited as per Schedule II of the Environmental Protection (Pollution from Plastics) Regulations, 2020, is as follows:
• Single-use styrofoam and plastic “clamshells” • Single-use styrofoam and plastic plates, bowls, and cups and lids • Single-use plastic forks, knives, spoons, sporks, and cutlery • Single-use plastic carrier bags commonly referred to as shopping bags and/or T-shirt bags • Single-use plastic drinking straws
Re: Single Use Plastics, Styrofoam Ban Goes Into Effect
#540083 01/16/2005:05 AM01/16/2005:05 AM
The Phase-out of Single Use-Plastics was signed into law two days ago. And, while your lunch today was likely still packaged in a styrofoam shell, the transition to bio-degradable products has begun.
That's right, by the end of 2020 you could be fined for carrying an excess of 10 plastic bags.
That's a revelation that might come as quite a shock, and leave many Belizeans wondering how to go about living in this new greener world.
We headed to Belmopan for a sit down with DOE C.E.O. Percival Cho, and he told us that while the process has been complicated and delicate, banning single-use plastics will make a major difference in the Belizean quality of life.
The D.O.E plans to launch a radio, T.V. and social media public relations campaign to sensitize the public on all aspects of the laws. The ads will explain how the law will work in order to educate Belizeans so that no one is caught off guard at any point during its implementation schedule.
Dust off the fabric shopping bags and pull out your Tupperware and trusty water bottle, Belize is going Green! But don't panic, it's going to be a gradual transition.
That said, manufacturers of single-use styrofoam and plastic products have less than 6 months to cease production, distributors of these products have 9 months to clear their shelves of inventory, and in 12 months time, you won't be able to possess single-use products above certain quantities.
And if you're still wary of the higher costs of biodegradable single-use products you may be interested to know that while plastic is cheap it has devastating hidden costs. Cherisse Halsall discussed it with CEO Percival Cho and other stakeholders:
Belize's phase-out plan to ban single-use plastics was officially signed into law on January 15th. It's a bold step we've taken as one of the region's leaders in ocean conservation management. And DOE C.E.O Percival Cho says that these new regulations seek a more accurate balance.
Percival Cho, C.E.O, Ministry of the Environment "In the world of environmental economics, and we have to take this into account in all the discussions about protecting the environment and mitigating climate change are based on these principles and the main principle is simple. Anything that we produce has a cost in addition to what you pay for it a bottle of water that you buy it costs a dollar if it's the small one but that has a cost on the environment, it has a cost on the public because we have to dispose of that. It has a cost of the environment because it creates damage over time as it degrades. Those costs haven't been incorporated by companies in the price of the product so what you get is a surplus of these products that don't take into account the cost."
One organization that is excited about the new law is Oceana, a tireless advocate for the health of the seas. And the NGO's communication's officer told us that if Belizeans think traditionally about food storage options the transition away from single-use plastics shouldn't be too hard.
Alyssa Noble-Carnegie, Public Relations, OCEANA "The plastic habit is, I would venture to say, a new addiction I think for many of us Belizeans we can recall in our own lifetime our grandparents using market bags, using reusable containers. We can all relate to going into the fridge and opening a butter container and not finding butter in there, you know you open it and you get beans or something like that. So it has been something fairly recent for us and I think that is an indication that it is still possible for us to transition away from single-use items to things that we have been as a people as a country, as a culture, have been doing for many generations before plastic happened on us so. We think it's possible."
And while there is a general consensus that plastic pollution is a hazard to our environment, marine life, and even ourselves the public has voiced fears that this transition to biodegradable containers could have an immediate negative impact on the cost of living. The DOE disagrees:
Percival Cho, C.E.O, Ministry of the Environment "But certainly I don't think there will be a situation where it becomes prohibitively costly to purchase food from a vendor just because they're using a different product than styrofoam and plastic that is not the expectation and we've studied the costing of the market and we don't expect that to be a real situation."
"The general view and the general advice, and the feedback from people as well so the industry folks know their options."
"Biodegradables they're a little expensive because of the manufacturing process and the sourcing of the raw bio-based materials and because it was considered a novel product, at the time. So the novelty I think has faded this is now a utilitarian type product this is what we need to use now. It's not novel anymore."
That's a sentiment that Ben Lo, the only large-scale manufacturer of partially biodegradable products in Belize, can get behind. And when we visited Lo's factory in November he shared his vision of how the plastic ban could definitely drive down the costs of his product.
Voice of: Benjamin Lo, Director of Nature Plus "It's definitely feasible because it's such an early stage with regard to the introduction of this product it hasn't really taken hold, so the cost for the production of such a product is relatively prohibited but I think as we go along and the market becomes a little more accepting to it then I think that the costs will eventually drop like everything in life, like plastic which has always been because it's so pervasive that's why its so cheap and accessible right."
But Lo says kinks are still being ironed in determining the criteria by which to qualify Belize's own standard of what is biodegradable.
Benjamin Lo, Director of Nature Plus "The criteria is manyfold because you have to consider the economic effects of a full 100% biodegradability or bio-based content as opposed to partial and because as you run the spectrum the more biodegradable it is it's more costly to manufacture and the less it is the less it cost."
"There is no doubt that some of my product still uses plastic but we don't use all of it. So 30% of my product is made of polymer which is a type of plastic and from that we fuse it with a bio-based content whether its cornstarch whether it's potato starch whatever starch it is we fuse it together and from that, we convert it into a finished product and what gives it the biodegradability part is when the starch gets fused with the polymer then that product goes out into the open environment, the microbes start eating away at the starch and the polymer so really it starts breaking down as opposed to plastic."
But those microbes are unfortunately no match for two seemingly small plastic offenders that at this time aren't being phased out.
Percival Cho, C.E.O, Ministry of the Environment "In terms of those plastics, those shilling bags as we call them. We did a study recently on marine plastic pollution with the help of the British government, DOE, and several other partners and what that study showed is that on the coastlines of Belize where we did the survey one of the most abundant sources of plastic was from those shilling bags and then the chips bags the Doritos, and the other chips bags and all those chips that we eat. That type of material is the most abundant so, using that information to inform policy we set some policy regulations to cabinet in an implementation plan that was approved and we socialized this to the public. We have set some milestones to address those plastic pollutions in the future one of the principal things we would have to do is work with the industry to find other alternatives or look at perhaps a recovery mechanism to ensure that these containers can be recovered rather than being thrown in the environment."
As we've told you, GOB still has to determine specific criteria for Belize's definition of Biodegradable. That will mean questions about degradation time, organic content, and international testing standards surrounding the replacements of single-use plastics.
Last week we told you that The Phase-out of Single Use-Plastics had been signed into law. And the transition process seems to be steamrolling ahead.
And, this morning The Belize Bureau of standards held a technical workshop on biodegradable and compostable materials in an effort to strengthen understanding, interpretation and application of the proposed standards for these products in Belize. We caught up with C.E.O Percival Cho to discuss temporary and projected definitions of Biodegradability for Belize.
Dr. Kelvin Okamoto - Green Bottom Line, Inc.
"It's great that Belize is willing to take these steps based upon what other countries have already done. They can now use what other countries have learned and implement an up-to-date system for standards and for the implementation of laws and regulations for producing and importing compostable biodegradable products for food service and so on. I think there is a lot of interest and I think some of these standards are a little different than they anticipated they would be but they are very willing to look at what possible amendments or revisions might be needed to the proposed standards. Maybe you don't have the economics to produce a lot in house but you will be able to import and export what a lot of others have already developed. Because you are small, it also makes it much easier to do education of the public and of the private section."
Percival Cho - CEO, Department of the Environment
"Well, as you know this is a multiple day workshop. So, yesterday was for government regulators, customs, environment, bureau of standards, trade, etc, to discuss the terminology around biodegradable standards, what it means, in order to get that information that they need to domestically and nationally prepare our own standards. So, today is the same, it is a repeat but it is for the private sector. So, we have various companies listed here including manufacturers of biodegradable products, including importers and including prospective companies who are interested in getting into the business. The discussion, as you noted from the presentation, has to do with, again, understanding the terminology. What do we mean by biodegradable. There are different levels and there are different types. So, that is going to be explained and questions taken for everyone to walk away with a clear understanding of what standards we are going to develop and for what purposes. 50% of the material that is used to make these products have to be from a plant based source; so, 50% bio-based. That is the standard at the moment. In the law we placed a provision that a full a set of standards, including levels of biodegradability and types of biodegradability, will be developed. And so that process has been ongoing. Today, this workshop is another step in that process. So we are on a timeline to develop these standards within a few months time."
"Now sir, we heard you say 50% for bio-based. But I heard in there that bio-based and biodegradable are two different things. So, what is the standard for biodegradable?"
"Well, that is a very good point. So 50% bio-based is an interim measure in the absence of a biodegradability standards. So, the standards are going to be developed by the task force by the committee set up to do so under the Belize Bureau of Standards. These standards, once they come into place will replace the 50% bio-based option and there will be a full scale of different types of biodegradability standards: soil vs. anaerobic vs. compost vs. landfill. And so, this workshop today is actually very key because it explains that process of standards development and it explains the definitions that people would have to understand in order for them to know what is the difference between when we say bio based and biodegradability, so that we are on the same page when the government would issue information. On the receiving end, people will understand what is being meant. So, this workshop is really intended to kind of build that knowledge. Well, I think the hope for us is that there is improved understanding of what we are going to strive towards, so that the private sector and us have a common understanding, a common knowledge of where the country is going, given the legislation that has been passed. And I think that once we are on the same page with that, I think the discussion and the process becomes more simplified for all parties involved because we will have a common understanding and a level playing field, so that all the companies understand that if they need to import a certain product or promote it on the market, that they know that it will already meet the standards, given their understanding of what the standards are."
"How is the private sector responding to the standards that are being imposed on them?"
"Well, they are part of the standards development. I think that is important to point out. The committee that is spearheaded by the Belize Bureau of Standards has, for the most part as I understand it, private sector participation. So, there is an international best practice when it comes to standards development that those industries to which the industries would apply, have to be involved in the technical development of those standards. So, BBS, Belize Bureau of Standards, they are very much compliant with the international best practices and that has been put in place. So, many of the private sector companies who sit in there currently in this workshop, sit on the standards committee. And again this workshop is to have those individuals receive the capacity, receive the knowledge for them to actively participate within the standards development committee and understand what is being discussed."
Technical workshops continue tomorrow at the Caribbean Motors showroom.