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Plastic-free advocates applaud Jamaica’s ban on plastic and styrofoam

The Jamaican government announced a ban on plastic bags, plastic straws, and Styrofoam products.

Jamaica joins a growing list of countries in the region to take legislative steps to address single-use plastic pollution, and local plastic-free advocates applaud the move.

Jamaica, an island paradise not far from our own has become the latest Caribbean nation to take steps against single-use plastic.

Plastic bags, Styrofoam food and beverage containers, and plastic straws are banned effective January first of next year, according to Jamaican media reports.

“It is so wonderful to see positive changes from every level, from a business level to a personal level, and governments actually taking that really brave step and just saying nope, we have had enough,” said Plastic-Free Cayman’s Claire Hughes.

Regionally, she said the tide is turning on single use plastics.

Last month, Grenada announced a ban on Styrofoam food and beverage containers. This, just weeks after Dominica announced a ban on plastic straws, plastic plates, plastic forks, plastic knives, and Styrofoam containers.

“There are so many local countries that are awakening and banning single use plastic items, and I feel we are really missing an opportunity here,” said Ms. Hughes.

To commemorate World Oceans Day 2018, Plastic-Free Cayman and schoolchildren from various Cayman schools met with Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour on the steps of the Government Admin Building, calling for a ban on single-use plastic.

“We proposed banning single-use plastic,” said Ms. Hughes. “We have not really heard anything from that, and it is very frustrating.”

Ms. Hughes applauded businesses who have proactively sought alternatives to single use plastics, such as paper straws, but she says government has its role to play as well.

“That is absolutely fantastic, but I think really, if you’re going to eliminate these single use items that we don’t really need, then it has to come from government, it really does,” said Ms. Hughes.

Jamaica’s ban includes the importation, manufacture, distribution, and use of all single use carrier bags.

It applies to bags with dimensions of 24 by 24 inches or below, but excludes single-use bags used to maintain public health and safety standards like bags used to package raw meat, flour, rice, sugar, and bread.

There are other exemptions for certain plastic straws and Styrofoam products.

Cayman 27 reached out to Minister Dwayne Seymour, he said he believes Cayman can move in the same direction step by step while consulting with our business partners, and says his Deputy Chief Officer has been working on it for months.

From Jamaica Gleaner:

Ban On Plastic Bags

* There will be a ban on the importation, manufacturing, distribution, and use of all single-use plastic carrier bags commonly called scandal bags.

* The ban applies to bans with dimensions at or below 24 inches by 24 inches.

* The ban excludes single-use plastic bags utilised to maintain public health or food safety standards such as those used to package raw meats, flour, rice, sugar and baked goods such as bread,

*Manufacturers and importers of shopping bags made of polyethylene must apply to the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) for limited exemptions. These applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis for continued manufacture and importation no later than January 1, 2021.

* Consumers are being encouraged to use reusable carrier bags, particularly by local enterprises.

Ban On Styrofoam

* The ban will apply to the importation of polystyrene foam, commonly referred to as Styrofoam, used as finished goods in the food and beverage industry i.e food and beverage containers.

* The local manufacture and distribution of polystyrene foam for use as finished goods in the food and beverage industry will be banned as at January 1, 2021.

* The use of polystyrene for the packaging of food items such as raw meats will be exempt.

* Producers of products which utilise such packaging must apply to NEPA for limited exemptions.

* Industry is encouraged to manufacture/distribute paper-based and other environmentally friendly alternatives for the domestic market.

Ban On Plastic Straws

* There will be a ban on the import and manufacture of plastic drinking straws.

* There will be no ban on wax-lined paper straws or other non-plastic straws.

* The importation of straws attached to lunch juice boxes and drink pouches will be banned as at January 1, 2021. This deadline was arrived at based on the Government’s discussions with the private sector regarding the timeframe for the conversion of existing equipment.

* For the medical sector as well as persons with disabilities, drinking straws made from alternative materials such as paper or bamboo are not always suitable. In light of this, exemptions will be examined in consultation with key stakeholders. Applications for such exemptions should be applied through the NEPA.

Procedures For Exemptions

* The guidelines for application for exemptions for the specific categories of plastic packaging materials will be developed by NEPA in consultation with the relevant public sector agencies. These Guidelines will be posted on the JIS and the Agency’s websites as well as circulated to the affected private sector stakeholders.

About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to

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