Styrofoam ban begins

Samoa’s fight against plastic pollution will take another step as the Government ban on styrofoam products takes effect on Tuesday.

The Government postponed the ban, which had been due to commence in January 2020, by six months due to a lack of available alternatives. 

But the Government has confirmed it will now take full effect on 30 June 2020 via televised advertisements, social media and on several media by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E).

Fines for businesses who fail to observe the ban can run to $10,000 for businesses and $5,000 for individuals, or up to six months in prison.

Since the introduction of a national ban on single-use plastic bags and straws in January 2019, the Government formulated a ban on styrofoam containers and cups, but deferred its enforcement until viable, environmentally-friendly alternatives were readily available.

On Monday, retailers told the Samoa Observer they were feeling positive about the ban as they had enough time to prepare for its being brought in.

Despite still having some styrofoam stock remaining, they say they are determined to contribute to the creation of a healthier and safer environment.

Fagamalo’s retail store at Magiagi, Tagaloa’s at Vaivase and Tonu’s at Vaitele said the delay had given the ban time to become effective.

“I guess it’s because we don’t really sell much of the styrofoam, hence why we’re not really impacted by the banning but it would be really nice to contribute to a safer environment for our children and our future generations,” the owner of Fagamalo’s, Alofa Fagamalo, said.

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 Ministry’s notice read. 

After the original January deadline for the ban, the M.N.R.E gave businesses an extra six months to allow them to exhaust existing supplies of stock and to begin the process to import or make alternatives.

Some conservationists backed the new timeframe for the ban earlier this year saying businesses needed time to adjust if the ban was to achieve its aims effectively. 

The President of the Samoa Conservation Society, James Atherton, said while the initial delay had been disappointing, he hoped the extra time would make the ban more successful when implemented. 

“We live in a country where people are struggling with financing so we have to take into account those kinds of economic issues,” he said.

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

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

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. 

The Waste (Plastic Ban) Management Regulation 2018 was officially endorsed by Cabinet in 2018.

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