Cooper: We support plastics ban but it needed more time

By Farrah Johnson

PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party deputy leader Chester Cooper said while he supports the ban on single-use plastics, he believes the government should have implemented a longer transition period.

This would have ensured the public was properly educated on the importance of the prohibition.

Speaking to reporters during a PLP walkabout on East Street, Mr Cooper said the party supports “any initiative that’s positive for the environment”.

Still, he insisted the government could have done a “better job” in implementing the ban.

“Certainly plastics and Styrofoam have caused a lot of issues in our waters and the general environment of our country. We are a country reliant on the water and marine resources and therefore we must do all we can to protect what God has given us.

“I thought there ought to be a broader timeframe for educating the public to explain to the public why it’s good for the country, why it’s good for the environment, why it’s good for our health and allow there to be a proper transition period.”

Mr Cooper also said he was “concerned” about a resident he knew in the plastic business who had a “significant inventory” they wanted to deplete before the ban was enforced. He said this was one of the reasons he told the government the transition period was too short in the House of Assembly.

Sharing his thoughts on the 25 cents to $1 businesses can now charge customers for plastic bags, Mr Cooper added: “I think the intent was sound in relation to discouraging the use of plastics (but) had there been a longer transition period, people would have been allowed to use up their stock. This is what my recommendation was to the government.

“Sometimes we get carried away with the politics of it and in opposition we recognise that our role is to help to build a country, not always to oppose for opposing sake,” he said.

“So we are dismayed that the government has done such a poor job at the implementation (and) at the public education on the issue, but (in the) longer term we expect positives to accrue as a result of the ban on plastics.”

Mr Cooper also said while the public outcry in regards to the plastic ban was “regrettable,” his party believed the ban is in the country’s best interest.

“I want to be very clear (in saying) that we believe that it is a step in the right direction and the protection of the environment, the protection of our marine resources and the protection of our country. Therefore, on that basis we stand behind it as we did in Parliament.”

Earlier last week, PLP leader Philip “Brave” Davis hit out at the government for implementing the plastic bag fee, which officials have said is meant to dissuade customers from using the materials. 

“Our position is that there should be no charge for the remaining plastic bags in inventory,” Mr Davis said during a press conference last Tuesday.

He also said: “The public is up in arms, and rightly so, over the permission granted by the government for businesses to charge a fee of 25 cents to one dollar for plastic bags – a product and service that was provided free of charge until the 31st of December, 2019.

“…Ostensibly, the product cost build up model already accounts for the cost of the plastic bags so the government in effect granted permission to businesses to charge their customers twice for these plastic bags.”

He added: “This is a case of taking more monies out of the pockets of ordinary working Bahamians who can least afford it and transferring these funds into the bank accounts of wealthy business owners. This is wrong and I call on the government to reverse this bad decision.”