Plastic bag ban

National

By LUKE KAMA and LEMACH LEVARI
THE Government has imposed a blanket ban on the manufacture and import of plastic shopping bags, but is allowing a one-month grace period for everyone to fully comply with it.
The announcement yesterday caught the PNG Manufacturers Council by surprise, which said it had not been told about it.
Council chief executive Chey Scovell told The National that he was not aware of a total ban on plastic bags.
Environment, Conservation and Climate Change Minister John Pundari announced the ban yesterday.
He said he expected the ban not to be well received by manufacturers and importers who had already obtained permits to import and manufacture biodegradable plastic shopping bags.
The Government in 2014 banned the import and manufacture of non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags. It allowed only the manufacture and import of biodegradable plastic shopping bags. But Pundari said yesterday the Government was not happy with how that was complied with.
“The overall compliance, monitoring and outcome from the manufacturer, importers and the general public has not been encouraging enough,” he said.
“Some people are taking advantage of the fact that biodegradable plastic are allowed for import, and import non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags amounting to several tonnes which is now becoming a great concern because plastic bags pose a significant threat to our fish and marine r
esources and our health and wellbeing.” He said the decision was made “for the greater good of the people and the country”.
Pundari said scientists had found in recent studies traces of plastic in fish, turtles and other marine animals at micro level.
“Since we have most of our coastal communities as well as inland people dependent on fish resource for their daily livelihoods, it is important
that the government takes appropriate actions to address the issue,” he said.
He, therefore, announced the “complete ban on the import, manufacture and use of all plastic shopping bags in the country”.
He said any industry or company wishing to continue enjoying the profits and benefits of manufacturing and importing plastic bags must pay the cost of managing plastic
wastes which was around K20 million a year.
“I am giving a grace period of one month. And for those who wish to continue will now have to pay the price of managing their waste themselves,” he said.
“We will impose an equal levy to all the industry players to a combined sum of K20 million annually.”
He is also looking at regulating the import, manufacture and use of plastic bottles and is urging industries to be innovative and look at other alternatives to plastic bags.
He advised industries producing and using plastic bottles to start looking at having better recycling programmes as part of their community and social obligations.

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