The final phase of the plastic ban took effect on March 31. That was four days ago and by the looks of it, people are still using single-use plastics. These prohibited items include disposable plastic and foam cups, plates, containers, as well as plastic forks, spoons, straws, lids and t-shirt shopping bags. At this point, it is important to know that owning these items is now a criminal offence. But while there is a complete ban on these items, officials expected that it would take some time for single-use plastics to completely disappear from daily use. There needs to be a total cultural shift enabled by cheaper alternatives. That discussion was had today on The Morning Show with Ryan River of Oceana Belize and Naomi Sanchez of Zero Belize.
Naomi Sanchez, Co-owner Zero Belize: “Especially now with the single use plastic ban, there are many other productions for which we need green alternatives. So while we are producing paper bags, you will soon see boxes, biodegradable cups, biodegradable plates, all of that. You can get it in one place, from Zero Belize. We have to start consuming consciously. We are in a point, in the country, in our lives, in the world actually, where every little action that we do has an impact. Right? So, while we know that plastic is convenience, using plastic, getting a plastic bag, anywhere you go is convenience, it’s important to keep in mind longer term, longer term effects, longer term impacts of what we choose right now because that’s what’s happening right now. So when it comes to the economic aspect of all of this, it is impactful. There is a quite big effect. We have to start thinking long term. We have to start thinking about our children, grandchildren and we have to start thinking do we want to have an environment that is clean, an environment that is conserved, something that we have right now because, Belize is a very beautiful country and while we have, we are very small and we can control that right now but if you look at the other first world countries, the difference is huge right? So when it comes to Zero Belize, we haven’t dived very much into styrofoam, I mean, my bad, into plates, cups, things that are widely used right now but it’s starting. It’s taking a leap into the right way. It’s taking a leap into okay, we have an alternative for single use plastic bags and now we want to further into that and we start with the plastic bags but, it’s easier to tell people or it’s easier to advertise or educate on take your own reusable tote to the shop than take your dish to the restaurant. It’s not only about buying your paper bag. It’s not only about buying green alternatives like biodegradable containers but also, us getting into the habit of taking our reusable totes, taking our dishes to the restaurants and so on. It’s a culture that we need to start forming.”
Ryan Rivera, Oceana Belize: “The importation duty is based on what the product is made of and the state in which it is imported. For example, the paper rolls would pay a lower import duty than a manufactured bag, right? So that’s another thing that needs to be kept in mind that if, for example, if you ask Ms. Sanchez how much she pays for the duty, she would pay a lot lower compared to somebody who is trying to bring in the already prepared moulded pulp paper products and that’s something that needs to be considered as well but when it comes to the plastics, importation duty for those, those are a lot lower than the other alternatives and it’s something that you could easily go and ask importers if they’re facing this and just to verify, it’s not something that we’re telling you but you can reach out to the importers or you can reach out to the relevant authorities who monitor these importation duties and ask them what’s the rating for the different items. But also to keep in the economics point, plastics may be cheap but removing them from the environment is costly and this is coming from somebody who has been doing cleanups way before I was working at Oceana. We have to buy material, move human resources, keep the human resources energised, that means water, snacks. We have to move the, like I said, move the human resources, then we have to move the trash to where it actually belongs or needs to be placed and it’s something that the expenses come either from taxpayers, again, if it’s something that the municipal or the national government organise. Or the expense comes from individuals who organise cleanups or from organisations so removing plastics from the environment does have a cost effect as well. It may be cheap to buy, to produce to use but then removing it from the environment does have an economic impact.”