Following reports of some small businesses continuing to supply plastic bags to their customers without charging for them, even after the implementation of a ban on single-use plastics, the Ministry of Environment and Housing revealed it will now issue an initial warning for first offenses before levying fines associated with recently-passed environmental legislation.
Senior Environmental Officer Dr. Rhianna Neely-Murphy said this grace period is to make the transition for businesses a little smoother.
“Now we have been out yesterday and a little bit this morning and we will go out again this afternoon to some of the larger retailers. What we have found is that they have implemented the bags at the point of sale, $0.25 to a dollar, most of them are charging $0.25 for the regular-sized thank you bags. But we did encounter a small business very close to us that just gave plastic bags,” she told Guardian Business.
“So, we will go in and make sure they understand what is happening now so that they can correct those things. What we’ll do at the initial visit for anyone not in compliance with the legislation is issue them a warning for the first visit. If we follow up on a second visit and find that they are still in noncompliance, then a citation will be issued.”
Fines for acts in contravention of the law start at $2,000 for the first offense and $3,000 for a second offense. Businesses that knowingly provide false or misleading statements to an environmental health officer in the process of conducting inspections are subject to a $5,000 fine or six months imprisonment.
The first stage of the ban began on Wednesday, when plastic bags, straws, food utensils and Styrofoam containers were banned from importation into the country.
It also marked the first day of the six-month transition period between January 1 to June 30, in which businesses would still be allowed to carry the forbidden items and sell them without penalty, with the exception of the plastic bags, Neely-Murphy clarified.
“So when you walk into a business that would have normally given you a plastic bag when you bought something, they now are required by law to sell you that bag, anywhere from $0.25 to a dollar.”
Neely-Murphy said there are six environmental officers that will visit business establishments throughout the capital posing as regular consumers, to observe whether businesses are following the law.