The Island Council of Thursday, October 22, unanimously approved the Island Ordinance to ban single-use plastic. Businesses are given four months to seek alternatives before the ordinance goes into effect, starting January 1, 2021 with a ban on plastic bags, followed by the prohibition of other plastic single-use articles in the months thereafter.
The Island was unanimously positive about the single-use plastic ban, which came to be upon the initiative of the Island Council through a 2018 motion, tabled by Council Member Vito Charles (Windward Islands People’s Movement WIPM).
“Two years ago, this Island Council unanimously adopted my motion to ban single-use plastic. I am very content that the ban now becomes a reality,” said Charles, who noted that there was still much work to be done in terms of implementation for the businesses.
“We are at the crossroads of how we want to further develop our island. Sustainability is becoming more and more important globally. This plastic ban will contribute to Saba’s environment and sustainability,” said Charles, who added that it was essential to not only keep recycling reusable materials, but to also consider reducing the amount of waste.
“We all see the benefit of this law proposal,” said Council Member Hemmie van Xanten (WIPM) in motivating his vote in favor of the island ordinance. “This is a big step for Saba,” said Council Member Esmeralda Johnson (WIPM), who pointed out that it was also important to educate people to use less plastics, to recycle more and to litter less.
“This is a milestone for the island and the region as a whole. It puts us closer to see a reduction of single-use plastics, to reduce the amount of trash in general, and by extent, to reduce our carbon footprint. Banning single-use plastic is a necessary step. We all know how harmful plastics are for the environment. This ordinance is a step closer to achieving a cleaner, healthier environment,” said Council Member Carl Buncamper (WIPM).
Commissioner Bruce Zagers gave some background information during the handling of the draft island ordinance in an earlier Island Council meeting. The ordinance was drafted with the help of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW) and finds its basis in the regulation that is currently being developed for the European Union.
The ordinance prohibits the provision of a list of easily replaceable or frequently used single-use plastic products, namely carrier bags, food containers, cups, plates, cutlery, straws, stirrers, cotton swabs with plastic rods, fresh produce bags and confetti.
The ban will be implemented in phases to give a reasonable phase-out period for the products on the list. The ban first goes into effect for carrier bags on January 1, 2021. Other products, except food containers, follow on May 1, 2021. Food containers are the last product to be banned, on October 1, 2021. The reason for this is that similar quality alternatives for food containers are harder to find than for the other products on the list. Restaurant owners need sufficient time to test different products and find a proper solution before fully eliminating the plastic and Styrofoam containers.
The ban focuses on all forms of plastics. This includes Styrofoam, but also bioplastics, which are chemically altered polymer products for which non-fossil organic raw materials were used. Although these plastics are more sustainable in the sense that no fossil raw materials were used, the end product is very similar to fossil fuel plastics and the environmental damage is therefore similar as well if the plastics are not processed in an industrial composting unit. The ban includes an exemption option for single-use plastic products that are necessary for medical purposes or in other contexts where hygiene cannot be sufficiently ensured otherwise.
No free bags
The ordinance prohibits businesses to give out plastic bags for free. This is done to encourage people to use reusable bags, but also to help business owners save costs. A price comparison revealed that the biggest price increase of alternatives compared to plastic counterparts is found in carrier bags.
Zagers stated that regular communication would take place about the implementation phases of the ordinance, to increase awareness and to inform the public on possible alternatives for the products that are banned. A ‘starter kit’ will be provided to each household, which includes different alternatives to single use plastic products. In the aim to reduce the use of disposable products in general, the kit will mainly include reusable products. Also, an expo will be organized for businesses where alternatives to single use plastic products will be presented and tested and business can collect samples to test in their own businesses.
Zagers said that Saba has always been known as an island and as a people who are conscious about the environment. “This is a positive development for Saba and will show long term gains for our nature and our environment as a whole,” he said.