Plastic ban worries Upolu businesses

Local businesses in Upolu have expressed concern there is no alternative to plastic bags when the Government’s ban comes into effect January 2019.

Speaking during consultations with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) and Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L.), business owners on Upolu described the ban as “unfair treatment” of local entrepreneurs.

Papalii Grant Percival, who runs a food processing and fresh produce outlet in Apia, said it was safer for shops to put fruits and vegetables in plastic bags and not reused bags and boxes.

“It is safer to put them (fruits and vegetables) in plastics than to put them into reused bags and boxes because that has bacteria in them. It is better to put them (fruits and vegetables) in virgin plastics. You need to understand that all we want is that you don’t discriminate against Samoans,” he said.

The Government’s decision to exempt importers of foreign-made fruits and vegetables also came under criticism with Papalii saying it was biased against Samoans. 

“You got to be fair so imported fruits and vegetables that come in plastic bags so how do you stop that. Because that’s what you’re saying, you won’t allow local fruits and vegetables to use plastic but the imported fruits and vegetables that are coming in plastics, how do you stop that? How do you deal with that? Because we want equal treatment we don’t want to be discriminated against because we are Samoans. We want equal treatment.” 

Apia Bottling owner John Ryan, who also attended the consultations, said he has proposed alternatives for the Government to consider.

“Almost everything that is imported now comes in some sort of plastics so banning one piece of plastic and allowing the other 90 per cent, I don’t think that is clever planning to help the world. But let’s look at how to reuse after we use it.

“What you are proposing is very very difficult to control because everything that comes in now almost comes in some sort of plastic, even medical stuff. What I would like to propose is one, is to ban the dumping of plastics as rubbish and secondly a disposal system,” he said.

Government legal adviser, Kathleen Taituave, assured the members of the business community present that she will bring their concerns to the relevant authorities. 

“We do take note of your comments and we will discuss it with the AG's office as well as our waste experts.” 

The absence of M.N.R.E. officers at the consultation was noticed by the local business representatives. 

Ms Taituave assured the business operators that their concerns will be raised at the next stage of consultation before the draft bill is submitted to the Cabinet. 

Alternative forms of waste management including the introduction of a “subsidy levy”was also under consideration, she added. 

“The levy is definitely something in the pipeline long term. We will try to discuss this with the Ministry of Finance and I do agree with getting that levy back to the government.”

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