Polystyrene foam or Styrofoam food containers and other items will soon be unavailable in the Territory as a ban on this material is in the pipeline. The proposed prohibition was discussed by Cabinet on 8 November and publicized on 23 November.
Many countries around the world have banned polystyrene foam or Styrofoam products citing environmental and health concerns. Here in the Territory many private citizens and even organizations have called for the banning of Styrofoam products.
The matter has now beentaken up by Cabinet. It was stated that Cabinet agreed on a policy to reduce plastic waste. According to the report on the 8 November sitting it was stated that Cabinet “decided that measures be taken to prohibit the importation, manufacture, sale or distribution of disposable food and beverage service ware made from polystyrene (Styrofoam) and other non-compostable plastics, as well as single-use disposable plastic bags that are non-biodegradable.”
As a means of facilitating the transition from Styrofoam to more environmentally and health friendly alternatives Cabinet ordered that biodegradable, eco-friendly, alternative products be exempted from import duties for a period of five years.
Further it was ordered that a levy be introduced on the importation of plastic water bottles to be paid into a recycling fund and that a deposit-refund system be created for single-use beverage containers (i.e. cans and bottles) as a monetary incentive for recycling or reuse;
Additionally, it was announced that the Ministry of Health and Social Development would instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers to draft the relevant legislation.
Last year 142 persons signed a petition to make the BVI Styrofoam free. The aim of the online petition was to prompt Premier Smith to consider the dangers of Styrofoam products and make the move to rid the Territory of the popular white foamy utensils.
The petition was accompanied by a letter to the Premier dated 8 June 2017. The letter noted Government’s commitment to the environmental and public health of its citizens and pointed out that over the years Styrofoam has proliferated itself into the Territory as an acceptable receptacle for food and beverage.
“We now know that by using containers made of Styrofoam, harmful chemicals leak into our foods and beverages and also seep into the ground and air when being disposed of. Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and appears to last forever…This, combined with the fact that Styrofoam floats, means that large amounts of polystyrene have accumulated along coastlines and waterways around the world. It is considered a main component of marine debris. Styrofoam is composed of Benzene and Styrene, both of which are known human carcinogens,” the letter added.