Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New committee will address Styrofoam issue

A committee comprising Government ministries and private stakeholders is to be formed to chart the way as the Ministry of Planning and Development addresses growing pressure to ban Styrofoam in Trinidad and Tobago.
In a media statement yesterday, the Ministry disclosed that the decision to form a working committee was taken at a meeting, also held yesterday, between its permanent secretary and a Ministry team, representatives of the food and beverage container industry, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce Trinidad and Tobago.
The Ministry said the decision to ban the manufacture, importation and use of Styrofoam products in T&T cannot be taken unilaterally by Government and must go through a process of wide consultation.
Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said recently she was in favour of a ban but that the process must be followed.
Robinson-Regis has also said that any such ban should also pave the way for innovation within the sector as other parts of the world look to move away from Styrofoam products.
The call for a ban on the ubiquitous material intensified last week with a petition by citizen Anika Mathur-Mohammed, which had up to yesterday attracted 2,581 signatures.
Some of T&T’s neighbours, including Guyana and St Vincent and the Grenadines, have already implemented such a ban and are looking at the importation of materials less devastating to the environment.
Also called polystyrene, Styrofoam wares are one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most-widely disposable products, but the material is notorious for its resistance to degradation.
With T&T’s love for tossing waste where it does not belong, Styrofoam is one of the country’s most visible forms of litter, environmental activist and director at Papa Bois Conservation Marc De Verteuil noted last week.
Asked about Government’s position on Styrofoam use in T&T and the possibility of a ban, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said Govern­ment “intends to lay shortly the Bill dealing with beverage containers” and “we are also considering other aspects of recycling waste, and this includes a policy position on Styrofoam containers”.
Robinson-Regis has acknowledged bans on Styrofoam products in some Caribbean islands and other countries around the world, the Ministry stated yesterday, but she stresses the importance of considering all concerns in decision making. The Ministry also stated: “In the case of the stakeholders at this particular meeting, factors such as the competitiveness of their businesses, livelihood of their employees, national trade, as well as impacts on the consumer are major factors for consideration.
“The Ministry is aware that legislation is also an important factor, and in this regard the Environmental Policy and Planning Division of the Ministry of Planning and Development is exploring the legislative implications of such.
“The Waste Recycling Legislation, which addresses the treatment of all waste, including plastics, is presently receiving the attention of the Cabinet.”
The Ministry of Planning and Development also holds environmental development within its mandate, in addition to socio-economic and spatial development.