Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, on Monday announced that the Department of the Environment (DoE) is working on a proposal consisting of measures, which include a ban on the use of single-use plastics in Guyana.
This type of plastic is made of low-density polyethylene, which does not break easily and is, therefore, not easily recycled and does not disintegrate.
According to Harmon, the proposal document will be engaging the attention of Cabinet soon. Speaking at an event at the Baridi Benab at State House to mark Earth Day, which was observed yesterday, the Minister reiterated Government’s commitment to protecting the environment and preserving Guyana’s ecosystems.
The theme for this year’s Earth Day observances is ‘End Plastic Pollution’ and Minister Harmon said that “We have to change our consumption and waste disposal patterns to combat this all pervasive presence of plastic waste in our environment. Very soon, we will have taken to Cabinet, a memorandum, which is being prepared by the Department of Environment… about measures to ban [single-use] plastics in Guyana… We are going to try to put in place the policies and arrangements,” he said.
The Minister of State said that Earth Day presents the perfect opportunity for citizens of Guyana and wider world, to not only take stock of their individual and collective responsibilities to the environment, but also to demonstrate a greater commitment and resolve to safeguard the planet so that it is not rendered uninhabitable for future generations.
“In January 2017, the Administration tabled and passed in the National Assembly, an amendment to the Customs Act, which stipulates that importers of plastic containers must pay an environmental levy to the Guyana Revenue Authority. This levy was not primarily a revenue collection initiative, but a measure to encourage recycling of plastic and to reduce its use,” the Minister explained.
Additionally, earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collaborated with some of the major supermarkets in the City to minimise the use of plastic bags. Minister Harmon said that this initiative will see supermarkets switching to boxes and reusable and biodegradable bags. The management of these businesses have also undertaken to find ways to encourage their customers to walk with their shopping bags instead of relying on plastic.
Some of the participating businesses include: Bounty Supermarket, N&S Mattai’s Supermarket, Survival Supermarket, Budget Supermarket, Distribution Services Limited (DSL) and Massy Stores Supermarket.
Minister Harmon used the forum to appeal to Guyanese to minimise, if not eliminate, the use of single-use plastic bags. He also expressed the Government’s appreciation to individuals and organisations that have been committing their time and resources to cleaning their surroundings and other public spaces. “Together and only together, can we protect the clean air that we breathe, the precious water resources and the flora and fauna that we share with the rest of the world and to pass on to posterity, a planet that is in a better condition than we found it,” he said.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Mikiko Tanaka said that if the world can realise the goal of ending plastic pollution, positive impacts on the environment will be tremendous, particularly in terms of a reduction in Carbon footprint. She added that while humans benefit significantly from the use of plastics, appropriate methods of disposal often goes unaddressed, so much so, that in 2006, the UNDP reported that every square-mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of plastic.