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Styrofoam ban begins next month

Samoa have taken the fight against plastic pollution even further with a Government ban on styrofoam products set to take effect next month. 

Since the introduction of a national ban on single-use plastic bags and straws in January this year, the Government formulated a ban on styrofoam containers and cups, but deferred its enforcement until environmentally-friendly alternatives were readily available. 

Now the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has announced that the importation, sale, distribution or manufacture of styrofoam plates, containers and cups will be banned effective January 30, 2020.

In a public notice, the Ministry said it would be strictly enforcing the ban and noted that styrofoam alternatives had been identified and made available through several local suppliers.

"Thus all importers are reminded to make sure to take [the] utmost note of the effective date of the ban and the Ministry will strictly monitor [...] compliance," the notice read. 

The Waste (Plastic Ban) Management Regulation 2018 was officially endorsed by Cabinet of the Government of Samoa in 2018 to manage the problem of plastic waste in Samoa with a commitment to protect the country’s oceans and marine environment.  

Those who fail to comply with the plastic ban can face a fine of up to $10,000.

Earlier in the year, local and small business owners appealed to the Government for more time to sell their remaining stock of styrofoam food containers and cups; others expressed concern that alternatives were more costly. 

Some small local business owners specialising in the sale of takeaway coffee and instant noodles said the changes would reduce their profit margins. 

Uai Fanene, who owns a shop at the Savalalo market, gave an example of the financial impact of the ban on a business similar to hers. 

“The thing is there are lots of people who buy coffee in morning," she said. 

“I purchase whole [boxes] of foam cups from Ah Liki which [costs...] $192.70 and the box has [a] quantity of 1000 cups."

The cost of shifting to alternatives, she said, would reduce her business' margins by an amount equivalent to her weekly sales of $250. 

“This is the amount that is going to be [taken] away as a result of the ban on foam cups,” she added. 

However, exemptions have been granted for plastic bags and packaging brought in last year for the purposes of food safety. 

Those exemptions apply to food items where plastic packaging is necessary and used exclusively for packaging and repackaging. These include frozen goods such as meat, ice, locally produced chips and kekesaina, kava, local biscuits and repacked coffee, tea, sugar, flour and cocoa. 

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