Plastic ban signed off, Govt. unclear on violations policy
Anyone found with a plastic bag or straw from 30th January 2019 could get slammed with a monetary fine, in accordance with a new regulation signed off by the Head of State last month.
The Waste (Plastic Bag) Management Regulations 2018 identifies banned items as shopping bags, packing bags (used for repacking of products) and straws as the first to go come 2019, closely followed by Styrofoam plastics from January 2020.
Ban violations are liable for up to 100 penalty points.
However, Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ulu Bismarck Crawley, and Waste Management Principal Officer, Ali’imuamua Setoa Apo could not point to what violations are worth how many points.
A penalty point is worth T$100.
“We have to go and consult with our legal team who will advise,” said Ali’imuamua.
“It depends on how much [plastic] you have or are distributing.”
According to Ms. Tuagalu, an M.N.R.E legal staffer, the weighting of the fine would increase with heavier offending, but was not ready to provide examples. She did confirm the fines would be handed down by the Court, not by monitoring officers.
“Liable means someone can be charged with a violation and then the courts will decide on the fine,” she explained.
Until the ban comes into place, everyone is encouraged to put their plastic bags and straws in the bin.
“You should help the campaign, get rid of it,” said Ulu.
In preparing for the ban, retailers and the public were invited to consultations. Aliimuamua said following those, he’s confident the public is on board with the changes.
“We have informed importers and they are aware we will confiscate remaining stock when we enforce the regulation on the 30th of January,” Ali’imuamua said.
Retailers are allowed to replace plastic bags with compostable paper bags for groceries and the like, which can be processed better at Tafa’igata landfill.
Several exemptions were made for locally made food products. Plastic packing will still be allowed for locally made chips, keke saina, kava, biscuits, repacked coffee, tea, sugar, flour and koko samoa.
The regulation repeals and replaces the 2006 plastic bag prohibitions which made bio-bags the only acceptable shopping bag in Samoa.