Although members of the opposition voted in favor of the Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill, 2019 in the House of Assembly, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday that the party now does not support the legislation, which requires businesses to charge consumers for plastic bags until June 30.
Davis yesterday labelled government’s single-use plastics ban policy “poorly planned” and “poorly rolled out”, and accused businesses of “taking more money from ordinary Bahamians” as he called for government to revisit the legislation.
“Our position is that there should be no charge for the remaining plastic bags in inventory,” Davis said during the party’s monthly meeting at its headquarters yesterday.
He added, “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.”
Davis also said, “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.”
The Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill, 2019 was passed in the House of Assembly in November 2019.
At the time, the opposition was supportive of the bills although PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper noted that the implementation of the plastic ban in January 2020 may be too soon given the level of public education necessary.
Yesterday, Davis admitted that opposition members did not raise similar objections regarding the bill when it was tabled. He claimed, however, that it was because they did not have sufficient time to do so and that their attention “was more on the basic environment”.
“The challenge with the law was that the government brought a compendium of legislation called environmental legislations, and our attention was more on the basic environment as opposed to the issues impacting the environment and how we’re going to regulate the environment,” Davis said.
“So, it was done without consultation with us. They brought [the bills] and they said we want to do all these bills one time; we have half an hour or less to deal with them in Parliament.
“It’s not so much what was passed in Parliament, I think it’s now how it’s being executed. And the execution of those bills, and the management of this execution. And if you find that it is impacting the ordinary Bahamian, you need to revisit it.”
Suggesting what the PLP would have done differently if in power, Davis said: “Our approach would’ve been to have a transitional period that would include a complete understanding of those products that are packaged in plastics and how we are to deal with those; and then have a regulated disposal of plastic products where you could have them separated, a separation of the products, and a proper disposal of it until you reach a point where you could then extinguish it altogether.”
He added, “Further, the government should set up strategically-located collection points for these plastic products in order [to] facilitate the removal of these products out of circulation.
“The new policy on the ban of single-use plastic products was poorly planned out and is being poorly rolled out and managed, to the irritation of many Bahamian consumers.”
The party is also “concerned how this will impact the income of packing boys”, Davis said, while Mangrove Cay and South Andros MP Picewell Forbes – who was also in attendance – claimed from his seat that the packing boys earn money for their families.
On Sunday, a senior official in the Ministry of Environment and Housing said the plastic bag fee was “put in place during this transition period as a deterrent to encourage people to change their behaviors and bring their reusable bag”.
The official also said that the ministry has been working with businesses “for a very long time” before the ban, and that most of them should not have much more stock of plastic bags left in their inventory.