Jamaica has become the latest country to introduce a ban on single-use plastics. In order to reduce pollution and the impact of plastic on the environment, the Caribbean nation will ban single-use plastic bags, plastic straws and Styrofoam beginning on January 1 next year.
One of the details of the new environmental policy is a ban on importing, manufacturing and distributing plastic bags that are smaller than 24 by 24 inches. This includes black “scandal” bags that are popular in Jamaica, because the dark color prevents others from seeing what is inside the bag. The ban does not apply to single-use bags that are used to package raw meats, flour, rice, sugar and baked goods, because their purpose is to maintain public health and food safety standards.
Daryl Vaz, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, is encouraging consumers to use reusable carrier bags from local enterprises instead of plastic bags.
Plastic foam, such as Styrofoam and also known as polyethylene, will also be prohibited starting next year, but importers and manufacturers will be able to apply for a limited two-year exemption. There is also a two-year extension for plastic straws attached to juice boxes and drink pouches. The medical sector can apply for exemptions from the plastic straw ban, because paper and bamboo alternatives are not always suitable for patients.
According to U.K.’s The Independent, the Jamaican government does plan to assist companies in making the transition to sustainable alternatives.
In addition to the environmental impact, Jamaica has another reason for banning single-use plastics. The island nation’s economy depends on tourism, and the disproportionate effect of marine litter on the coastline has done some damage. Some studies suggest that tourism hot spots can lose millions of dollars a year if visitors see litter. Not only does this ban help the environment, but it might also help to improve the slow economic growth the country has seen in the past few years.
Other nations making moves against single-use plastic include Scotland, which has banned plastic-handled cotton buds, and India, which has reportedly issued a ban on all single-use plastics by 2023.
Image via Cpl. Samuel Guerra