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‘Help us’

During a packed meeting of the Rotary Club of East Nassau, businesswoman Louise Munroe, who owns a plastic supply company, made an emotional appeal to Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira to lift the 25-cent minimum fee for single-use plastic bags.

But Ferreira, who was a guest speaker at the meeting held at the Nassau Yacht Club, told Munroe that “adequate notice was given” to all businesses.

“In our manifesto in 2017, we said that upon being elected we will ban single-use plastics by 2020,” the minister said.

“That came out in 2017. We have repeated that continuously.

“We had our first public meeting in, I think, July of 2018. We’ve had billboards up.

“We’ve had aggressive marketing going on to inform all Bahamians that this was coming so that you could prepare, so you could get your house in order. We are open to all reasonable suggestions.”

Munroe, who was a guest of Super Value owner Rupert Roberts, told the minister that since the ban took effect, she has had sleepless nights and is now in debt.

Munroe said she is the owner of Plastic Property Ltd., a company that supplies “all your disposable product needs such as sanitary supplies, grocery shopping bags, plastic, paper and foam products”.

“We 100 percent support the ban, but we are caught as a supplier and merchant of huge inventory that we cannot dispose of because of this 25 cents charge,” she said.

“I am pleading with the government and minister here to help us, because we are stuck.

“I can invite you to come to my warehouse and see the hundreds of thousands of bags I’m left with. We knew that the ban was about to come. We have reduced the amount of bags that we were importing to just allow for the six month period, because we have contracts with our suppliers in the U.S. and abroad.

“So, we are pleading with the government.”

Munroe said she attempted to contact government officials on the matter several times but had no success.

“I have sent numerous messages to the prime minister, and I have also been at your office, sir. With all due respect, I didn’t get a chance to see you,” she said.

“But as a young entrepreneur who had a dream, I felt that my dream has been crushed. And Mr. Roberts and other people on this island have supported me.

“This is the first time I stand publicly to plead for help. I cannot move my business forward. My doors will be closed and my 10 employees and all my dreams will be shattered if we don’t lift the [fee] of the 25 cents to allow us to get rid of our inventory until June.”

She added, “How can you let the dream of a Bahamian entrepreneur go down? I have hundreds of thousands [of bags]. I don’t care to say what the dollar value is, but it’s sitting in my warehouse. I am in debt to bankers, to suppliers.”

Legislation banning single-use plastics came into effect on January 1, 2020.

The Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Act, 2019 outlines that businesses have until June 30, 2020 to possess prohibited items such as plastic bags on the condition that the items are sold to customers at a fee no less than 25 cents and no more than $1, excluding value-added tax.

Munroe pointed to examples of other countries as examples where plastic bag fees are not as high or non-existent to allow suppliers to rid themselves of stock.

However, Ferreira said that while the government is open to reasonable suggestions, business owners had enough time to prepare themselves.

He added, “Adequate notice was given from 2017.

“We advised all businesses.”

However, Ferreira said the government will try to help businesses adjust.

“We are here to help you to adjust,” he said.

“Issues where there may have been a degree of shortsightedness, we’re also willing to discuss that as well.”

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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