“Make the Switch and Avoid the Risk” is one of the many tag lines promoted under the Ministry of Health and the Environment. Following on the heels of the elimination of the use of t-shirt plastic bags by the major supermarkets in the country, the current Styrofoam Ban Initiative is another step in providing a cleaner, safer and healthier environment in Antigua and Barbuda.
Social media over the past few months has been bombarded with marketing promotions along with educational paraphilia concerning the Expanded Polystyrene “Styrofoam” ban.
As a Nation the meaning of the ban relates to food containers including bowls, plates, hot and cold beverages cups and cup lids, clamshell, hinge lids and all other containers made of polystyrene for food services, utensils, straws, meat, vegetable, and fruit trays, egg cartons, coolers, and any other products made of Styrofoam used for selling or providing food for consumption on or off the premises.
Expanded polystyrene is known to have negative environmental, marine and human health impacts. For example, the National Institutes of Health 12th Report on Carcinogens identified styrene as a ‘reasonably anticipated’ carcinogen in humans. The leaching of Styrene when heated is of major concern due to the fact that toxin are entering our foods, drinks, and bodies in small amounts over a period of time. In addition, it has become a growing problem for landfill worldwide since decomposition takes hundreds of years and Marine life is constantly affected due to broken pieces that are mistaken for food, resulting in toxic EPS being ingested. Antigua and Barbuda in the year 2016 imported a total of approximately 292,830 kilograms. This amounts to over a Six thousand pounds of Styrofoam used on an island of 108 square miles.
As of July 1st, 2017, the first stage of the Styrofoam Ban rolled into effect with a six month phasing out period until December 31st, 2017. All importation after the above mentioned date will be confiscated. This stage of the ban covers the importation of Styrofoam food service containers such as clamshell, hinge lids, hot dog containers, bowls, plates, hot and cold beverage cups, lids and caps.
Stage two commences from January 1st, 2018 to June 30th, 2018 with a six month phasing out period. The restriction covers the importation of utensils (plastic spoons, forks, knives and straws), fruit trays, meat trays, vegetable trays and egg cartons are also included.
Stage Three commences from July 1st, 2018 to January 1st, 2019 with a six month phasing out period. During this stage, the restriction covers ‘naked’ Styrofoam coolers.
The list of government approved biodegradable alternative products includes Bagasse (Sugar cane), PLA Cornstarch (NON GMO), Bamboo, Wheat Straw, Cardboard/Paper, Areca Palm and Potato Starch, all of which are tax free (Revenue Recovery Charge, Duties, Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax and Levy). Additionally Airline Carriers, Private Airline Charters and Passenger Cruise Vessels shall be exempted until further notice. Moreover regulations and legislation pertaining to the Styrofoam Ban and approved alternatives shall be finalized by January 2018. The legislation will also speak to prohibition and penalties for offenders.
As citizens it is important to note that the Styrofoam Ban extends to ALL businesses within the food service industry in Antigua and Barbuda, including the catering industry, food vendors, large and small supermarkets and grocery stores.
The Ministry ensured proper Consultation was held with major stakeholders who were in agreement with the initiative before development was carried out. Many of these alternatives would be flooding the shelves of supermarkets and wholesale businesses by August 2017 while product preview were displayed to the public at the Ministry’s consultation at The Multi-Purpose Cultural Centre on June 7th 2017 and the Open House/ Showcase at 39’ers Square, in front of the Ministry’s Headquarters on June 30th 2017.
At the recent public consultation and open house, the Health and Environment Minister thanked the business community for its cooperation and urged the entire nation to support the Styrofoam Ban Initiative.
“The spirit of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda is healthy and rich in terms of looking after our environment. All of you should appreciate that you as a nation are taking a leading role in the Caribbean on this matter and I anticipate that by the end of 2019, all of you will be able to take credit that Antigua and Barbuda has eliminated the use of polystyrene from the food service industry in Antigua.
The Ministry of Health & the Environment continues its public education campaign, sensitizing the nation to the new reality and calling upon all to ‘Make the Switch and Avoid the Risk.’