Styrofoam ban kicks in

As Samoa enforces a Styrofoam ban, shop owners have expressed mixed reactions on the new initiative.

Cabinet approved the effective date of the Styrofoam ban for 28 February 2021 and monitoring compliance is in the hands of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) starting from 1 March, 2021.

Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Government deferred from last year, the enforcement of the nationwide ban on the use of some Styrofoam products. 

The last day of January 2020 was the initial date scheduled for the Styrofoam ban, a year after the nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags, packing bags and straws in January 2019. 

In a public statement issued by M.N.R.E. at the end of 2019, it stated that the importation, sale, distribution or manufacture of Styrofoam plates, containers and cups will be banned; a move empowered by the Waste (Plastic Ban) Management Regulation 2018 which was officially endorsed by the Government in 2018 to manage the plastic problem in Samoa and show its commitment to protect the country’s oceans and marine environment. 

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

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, one of the owners of a shop at Vaitele, Mikaele Lositele, said the ban will make things even harder for them. 

He said that they were already struggling during the state of emergency, and while the new change is good for the environment, it will affect their business financially.

The 37-year-old explained that he sells $1.50 coffee and noodles using Styrofoam cups but with the ban enforced, they will lose this small profit.

Mr. Lositele said that previously, purchasing whole boxes of foam cups from one of the local wholesalers cost $192.70 for 1000 cups, but compared to the approved cups that cost $6.00 to $8.00 for 25, it is a struggle. 

However, another shop owner from Vaiusu, Serah Telesia said that they shifted to using paper cups for a couple of months now. 

“We started to use the paper cups last year, some of our customers have gotten used to it. 

“There have been a couple of complaints such as, the cups when filled with hot water for coffee or noodles can get very hot. 

“But I do agree that this is a good initiative to save our environment from plastics and Styrofoam products.” 

In a previous response from the Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of M.N.R.E., Frances Brown-Reupena stated that their Ministry expects some challenges in enforcing and monitoring compliance, but were confident that with the support of the public and the business sector there would be minimal issues especially in the initial stages of implementing the ban.

She said the Ministry is urging the country to comply with the ban for a healthy Samoa in the long run.

“Alternatives have already been identified and available at our local stores,” added the C.E.O.  

The head of M.N.R.E. recommended the public report any non-compliance via the Ministry’s Facebook page or by calling 67200.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands banned the importation, manufacture and use of single-use plastic shopping bags, Styrofoam cups and packaging when its legislation came into effect in March 2017, while Vanuatu’s legislation came into effect on 1 July 2018.

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