As of today, those businesses that have not had the four banned plastic products cleared from Bahamas Customs will not be able to receive those items, Senior Environmental Officer at the Ministry of Environment and Housing (MOEH) Dr. Rhianna Neely-Murphy told Guardian Business yesterday.
Neely-Murphy said those banned items are single-use plastics such as plastic bags, straws, food utensils and Styrofoam containers.
“As of December 31, anything that is being banned that is on the dock coming into the country that has not been cleared will not be cleared,” she said.
“January 1, if you haven’t gotten your things off the dock, you won’t get them.”
Neely-Murphy added that the MOEH will have employees monitoring stores and businesses across the country to ensure that they are complying with the ban and with the law.
Stores that already have single-use plastic bags will be allowed to sell those bags from 25 cents to $1, until July 1.
“As of July 1, it will no longer be a Customs enforcement, but we will have even more monitors to ensure that the shelves are cleared of all the items,” Neely-Murphy said.
“Stores will get fined or managers or owners could possibly go to jail if they still carry these things on subsequent offenses.”
On Wednesday, the first day of 2020, the release of balloons into the air will also be an offense.
Environmental officer at the MOEH, Lyndee Bowe, said the ministry has done a lot of ground work to get the word out to the public about the plastic ban. She explained that they have used radio, television, social media, billboards and town hall meetings to reach the public.
“We have been to Grand Bahama and Abaco prior to Dorian,” she said.
“We have had giveaways on Bimini, and traveled to Eleuthera, Exuma and Andros.”
The MOEH has also been handing out reusable bags that they hope Bahamians will begin to use to replace plastic bags.
Neely-Murphy said the ministry has already distributed about 50,000 of the bags.
“Everywhere we go we take the bags,” she said.
According to Neely-Murphy, this ban was important for the MOEH because of its positive impact to the environment and because it aligns with the country’s climate change initiatives.
“All of these plastics make their way into our terrestrial environment and into our marine environment,” she said.
“They ultimately end up in the ocean and in the fish that we eat.
“This is also a part of the government’s climate change response. These bags are made from fossil fuels, [p]lastic bags are made from those products and the burning of those products cause climate change or have led to this human induced climate change that we are experiencing.
“That has allowed for the formation of mega storms like Dorian. Unfortunately, we are in a cycle where we might not be able to prevent another Dorian in my lifetime, but these small steps are going to help other generations to possibly not have to see a Dorian later on.”
“The Bahamas is saying ‘we don’t want climate change’ and this is a response to climate change. So, we are stopping these fossil fuel-based products at our border.”
Bowe said companies like Aliv, REV Cable Bahamas, the Insurance Commission of The Bahamas, and AML Foods have partnered with the MOEH to roll out the plastic ban.
She added that compostable bags will be allowed until 2022 and will also be sold in stores for a fee.
Neely-Murphy said throughout this process, they have found that those Bahamians who do not want to see a ban on plastic bags, have “an abnormal affinity to plastic bags”.