The Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill, 2019, now out for public consultation, would prohibit the import, distribution, manufacturing, possession and sale of single-use plastic bags and food containers.
The bill would not apply to businesses that manufacture expanded polystyrene in The Bahamas for export.
The government has previously indicated its plans to ban single-use plastics at the beginning of 2020.
“No person shall import, distribute, manufacture, possess, sell, supply, or use in The Bahamas any non-biodegradable, oxo-biodegradable, or biodegradable single-use plastic bags,” the bill reads.
The bill would allow exceptions for plastic bags used for several specific purposes, including: bags for waste disposal; compostable single-use plastic bags; bags intended to be used solely to contain wholly or partly unwrapped food for consumption, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, ground coffee, grains or candies; and bags intended to be used to solely contain live aquatic creatures in water.
The bill would also allow the minister of environment to make other types of plastic bags exempt.
Anyone who is found to have violated the ban would face a fine of $2,000 for a first offense, and in the case of a continuing offense, an additional fine of $500 per day. In the instance of a second or subsequent offense, one could be fined up to $3,000, and in the case of a continuing offense, a further fine of $700 dollars for each day during which the offense continues.
The bill provides for a transition period of six months, during which businesses would be allowed to possess and sell prohibited single-use plastic bags to customers for a fee that ranges between 25 cents and one dollar.
The bill reads, “Upon the commencement of this act, a business establishment shall sell items prohibited under section 7 until 30th June, 2020 to a customer at a fee that is no less than 25 cents and no greater than one dollar per bag, excluding VAT; and shall be retained by the business establishment; and possess items prohibited under section 7 until 30th June, 2020.”
The bill would also ban plastic foodware including styrofoam cups, plates and other containers; plastic knives, forks and spoons and plastic straws.
“For the avoidance of doubt, subsection (1) does not apply to reusable plastic foodware; compostable plastic foodware; or plastic foodware that is an integral part of the packaging in which food or drink is sealed prior to its delivery to a point of sale,” it reads.
The minister of the environment would be able to amend the types of goods banned under this section.
The bill would allow business establishments to sell compostable single-use plastic bags to a customer at the point of sale for a fee from 25 cents to one dollar per bag, excluding VAT. Fees collected from these sales would be retained by the business. The bill provides that the fee for the sale of a compostable bag must be separately stated on the receipt provided to the customer and identified on the receipt as “checkout bag fee”.
However, businesses that sell compostable single-use bags would be required to keep a record in relation to a reporting year. The record would have to include the number of bags supplied by the business each year, the gross proceeds from the sale of the bags and the net proceeds of the sale of the bags. The reporting year is defined as the period from January 1 to December 31 of each year.
A copy of the record would have to be sent to the minister of the environment before January 31 of the year following the reporting year.
The bill would also allow an environmental health officer to inspect the premises of business establishments for any reason related to enforcing these regulations.
The bill would also make it illegal to release balloons into the air.
It reads: “No person shall release any number of balloons at or about the same time if such balloons are filled with gas that causes them to rise in the air.”
Anyone found guilty of having intentionally released balloons into the air could be fined up to $2,000 for a first-time offense, and in the case of a continuing offense, a further fine of $500 per day during the time the offense continues.
With respect to a second or subsequent offense, the bill provides that one could be fined up to $3,000 and a further fine of $700 per day for continuing offenses.
In the case of balloons that are released by businesses, directors, managers secretaries or other officers, the bill imposes a fine up to $5,000.
“Where an offense under this section has been committed by a body corporate and is proved to have been with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect or default on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, or any person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, such director, manager, secretary or other officer as well as the body corporate commits an offense and is liable to a fine not exceeding $5,000,” the bill says.
The bill also prohibits permitting or causing balloons to be released into the open air.
Anyone found guilty of having caused or permitted a balloon to be released into the air could be fined up to $1,000 for a first-time offense, and in the case of a continuing offense, a further fine of $300 per day during the time the offense continues.
With respect to a second or subsequent offense, the bill provides that one could be fined up to $2,000 and a further fine of $500 per day for continuing offenses.
However, the bill provides that if a balloon is released unintentionally and without negligence, it would not be considered an offense. A balloon can also be released inside buildings once it cannot make its way into the open air. The release of balloons for scientific purposes, including meteorology, would be allowed.