Bill to prohibit single-use plastics, regulate compostable plastics

Bill to prohibit single-use plastics, regulate compostable plastics

Release of balloons subject to between $2,000 and $3,000 fine

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government is seeking to prohibit single-use plastic foodware and bags in The Bahamas, regulate the use of compostable single-use plastics, along with making it a criminal offense to release balloons into the atmosphere — an action that would carry hefty fines.

The Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Act, 2019, was released for public consultation yesterday.

The government has proposed that the law would come into force on January 1, 2020.

If passed, businesses would be permitted to use and sell compostable single-use plastics to consumers until June 30, 2020, according to the bill.

A degradable or compostable plastic item typically deteriorates faster than conventional plastic products.

The legislation applies to anyone who manufactures, possesses, sells, supplies or uses any single-use plastic foodware set, including reusable plastic foodware; compostable plastic foodware; plastic foodware that is an integral part of the packaging in which food or drink is sealed prior to its delivery to a point of sale.

The prohibited list of plastic foodware includes, Styrofoam cups, Styrofoam plates and other similar Styrofoam foodware used to contain food; plastic knives; plastic forks; plastic spoons; and plastic straws.

The act does not apply to a person who manufactures expanded polystyrene in The Bahamas for export, according to clause 3 of the bill.

According to clause 4 of the bill, a person would be prohibited from importing, distributing, manufacturing, possessing, selling, supplying or using single-use plastic foodware in The Bahamas.

Non-biodegradable, oxo-biodegradable or biodegradable single-use plastic would also be prohibited.

However, the provision would not apply to a compostable bag, a bag intended to be used solely to contain wholly or partly unwrapped food for consumption, such as fruits, vegetables, buts ground coffee, grains of candies; bags intended to be used solely to contain uncooked fish, meats or poultry; those intended to be solely used to contain loose seeds, bulbs, corns, rhizomes, flowers or goods contaminated by soil; pharmaceutical dispensing, among another 10 purposes.

According to the bill, for a transition period of six months, businesses shall be permitted to sell a compostable single-use plastic bag for a fee of ranging between 25 cents and one dollar, excluding value-added tax.

“Where, in accordance with this section, a business establishment sells a compostable single-use plastic bag to a customer at the point of sale, the fee for the sale of the bag must be separately states on the receipt provided to the customer; and identified on the receipt as ‘checkout bag fee’,” the bill reads.

The fee collected would be retained by the business, according to the bill.

The bill would give environmental health officers “at all reasonable times” authority to inspect premises of businesses for compliance.

Anyone who assaults, resists or impedes the environmental health officer or knowingly makes any false or misleading statement to an environmental health officer shall be liable, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding $5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months.

Businesses would also be required to record the number of compostable single use plastic bags supplies during a report year, the gross proceeds of sale and the net proceeds. Failure to produce these records would be a crime liable to a fine, upon conviction, not exceeding $2,000.

The reporting year refers to January 1 through December 31.

Release of balloons

Under the new act, balloons would be prohibited from being released into the atmosphere.

It would become a criminal offense to release balloons whether unintentional and without negligence; inside a building or structure, even if the balloon or balloons “make its way into the open air” and even in circumstances for scientific or meteorological purposes.

Anyone found guilty of an offense would be liable to a fine not exceeding $2,000 in the first instance, and in the case of a continuing offense, a further fine of $500 for each day for which the offense persists.

In instances of a second or subsequent offense, a person found guilty would be subject to a fine not exceeding $3,000, and a further $700 for each day the offense continues.

“Where an offense under this section has been committed by a body corporate and is proved to have been with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect or default on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or any person who was purporting to act in any such capacity; such director, manager, secretary or other officer as well as the body corporate commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding $5,00,” the act reads.

The act further states that no one person shall “cause or permit the release, whether by one or more than one person, any number of balloons at or about the same time if such balloons are inflated with a gas that causes them to rise in the air”.