Bahamas encourages public debate on proposed legislation banning plastics

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According to CANA, the Bahamas government has released the Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill, 2019 that would apart from prohibiting  the import, distribution, manufacturing, possession and sale of single-use plastic bags and food containers also make it illegal to release balloons into the air.

“No person shall release any number of balloons at or about the same time if such balloons are filled with gas that causes them to rise in the air,” according to the proposed legislation, adding that anyone found guilty of having intentionally released balloons into the air could be fined up to US$2,000 for a first-time offense, and in the case of a continuing offense, a further fine of US$500 per day during the time the offense continues.

The bill also makes provisions for subsequent offenses, resulting in fines of up to US$3,000 and a further fine of US$700 per day for continuing offenses.

It notes that in the case of balloons that are released by businesses, directors, managers, secretaries or other officers, the bill imposes a fine up to US$5,000.

“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 offense and is liable to a fine not exceeding $5,000.”

However, the legislation would not apply to businesses that manufacture expanded polystyrene in the country for export.

Bahamas is joining a number of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that have banned single-use plastics, with Nassau hoping to put the legislation in place by next year.

According to the proposed legislation “no person shall import, distribute, manufacture, possess, sell, supply, or use in The Bahamas any non-biodegradable, oxo-biodegradable, or biodegradable single-use plastic bags”.

The legislation would allow exceptions for plastic bags used for several specific purposes, including: bags for waste disposal; compostable single-use plastic bags; bags intended to be used solely to contain wholly or partly unwrapped food for consumption, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, ground coffee, grains or candies; and bags intended to be used to solely contain live aquatic creatures in water.

It also allows for the Minister of the Environment to make other types of plastic bags exempt. But anyone, who is found to have violated the ban would face a fine of US$2,000 for a first conviction and additional fine of US$500 per day for continued offences.

In the instance of a second or subsequent offense, one could be fined up to US$3,000, and in the case of a continuing offense, a further fine of US$700 dollars for each day during which the offense continues.

The bill provides for a transition period of six months, during which businesses would be allowed to possess and sell prohibited single-use plastic bags to customers for a fee that ranges between 25 cents and one dollar.

“Upon the commencement of this act, a business establishment shall sell items prohibited under section 7 until 30th June, 2020 to a customer at a fee that is no less than 25 cents and no greater than one dollar per bag, excluding VAT; and shall be retained by the business establishment; and possess items prohibited under section 7 until 30th June, 2020.”

The bill would also ban plastic food ware including styrofoam cups, plates and other containers; plastic knives, forks and spoons and plastic straws.

“For the avoidance of doubt, subsection (1) does not apply to reusable plastic foodware; compostable plastic foodware; or 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 proposed legislation states.

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