Firms warned over failure to comply on plastics

By Earyel Bowleg

THE Ministry of Environment has found a few businesses not compliant with the law requiring customers to be charged a fee for single-use plastic bags.

According to Senior Environmental Officer Dr Rhianna Neely-Murphy, at least two companies were warned by environmental officers for not following the Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Act mandate to charge customers a fee of between 25 cents to $1 for single-use plastic bags.

Since the law took effect on January 1, a few people have complained that some restaurants have been distributing free plastic bags as well as banned Styrofoam containers. Businesses can face a $2,000 fine for not complying with the law after receiving a warning.

Dr Neely-Murphy revealed on Monday that the ministry has sent out three teams aggressively doing inspections since January 3 to ensure adherence to the plastic ban. The law also prohibits the sale or use of Styrofoam cups and foodware as well as single-use plastic cutlery and straws. 

“We’re going to start in the southern New Providence this week, but we’ve had teams deployed in the west, in the east, in the downtown area, as well as in the central area like the malls and things like that.

“..Most businesses, the larger ones at least, have been compliant with exception of one or two and we will give them two weeks to become compliant and then we will revisit them.”

She previously told The Tribune that the government is not backing down from implementing the fee for single-use plastic bags. Environmental officer Lyndee Bowe insisted the 25 cents was not only a deterrent from using plastic bags, but to remind customers to bring reusable bag.

She argued: “Businesses knew from 2018, so we anticipated that not much stock would still be in country because they knew that the ban was coming. They knew that there would be a fee involved and we anticipated that they also knew that Bahamians would not be very pleased with paying for something that used to be free.”

Along with the plastic bag fee, merchants will need to report how many plastic bags have been sold. There is a fine of up to $1,000 for failing to keep records.