15th June 2016
Interest was high as Minister of Health and the Environment Molwyn Joseph met yesterday (Tues) with key Stakeholders to discuss the progress being made ahead of the government's plans to phase out the use of T-Shirt plastic bags come July 1, 2016.
Representatives from the Bargain Center Supermarket, Food Brokerage Services Ltd, Little Canton Supermarket, A.S Bryden, Gloria's Supermarket, Epicurean and First Choice fielded questions to Minister Joseph and shared their views regarding the smooth transition of the switch to the use of reusable bags.
From all accounts, they are basically on board with governments no plastic bag policy and are making urgent preparations for the changeover.
However before the harmonized response, Victor Michael of First Choice was among those most concerned about things like duty free concessions, the initiation process of the reusable bags, the need for a better understanding of what the law pertaining to this initiative entails and what is being done to bring greater awareness of this programme to the general public before the target date.
Questions were also put to the Minister regarding the use of brown paper bags as a replacement for the T-Shirt plastic bags. While he had no qualms with this suggestion, he said further review would have to be made by the government regarding the waiver of taxes on these particular bags. Plans are also in motion to further sensitize the public on why it is important for Antigua and Barbuda to go the no-plastic bag route.
In further seeking to address the points raised, Minister Joseph told the business leaders that a cabinet decision has been made to waive taxes and duties, inclusive of ABST and the RRC on the importation of reusable shopping bags.
He also assured the Stakeholders that government will soon get the ball rolling in distributing some 120 thousand reusable shopping bags throughout the various communities as a one-time measure to fuel the transition process. Joseph lauded the supermarket reps for working so meticulously with the government through the various stages of this very important initiative.
Minister Joseph further disclosed that a recent decision was made to give the smaller supermarkets a little more time to fully effect the switch.
Joseph said that the whole issue of the effect of plastics on the environment has been discussed at major forums including the United Nations and he has even received calls from regional counterparts seeking advice on how to go about implementing such an initiative.
Although Minister Joseph and those in attendance recognized that there could be hiccups in any transitional process, he is appealing to the public to get into the habit of using recyclable bags.
Business places that are already in possession of reusable bags are being encouraged to start introducing them to shoppers even before the July 1 deadline.
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Tel: (268) 464-8026