Press Release – Government Press Office – March 20, 2018 – The Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Commerce, and the Ministry of Tourism led a collaborative taskforce comprising the Department of the Environment, Customs Department, Beltraide, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, and Solid Waste Management Authority to advance a proposal to Cabinet to reduce plastic and Styrofoam pollution through the phasing out of single-use plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam and plastic food utensils by April 22, 2019. The proposal was approved by Cabinet at its sitting today, 20th March 2018.
The phasing out of plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam and plastic food utensils, such as clamshells, flat plates and cups, is a necessary pollution control measure to protect the terrestrial and marine environment from harmful plastic contamination. Biodegradable alternatives to the plastic and Styrofoam products already exist on the Belizean market in the form of shopping bags, clamshells, coffee cups and plates manufactured from plant-based materials.
Plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam clamshells are used by the average person for only a few minutes before they are thrown away where they can last for decades in the landfill or as litter on the side of highways, in rivers, along coastlines and in the sea, causing harm to wildlife and fishes vulnerable to choking on plastic pieces. The annual clean-up cost of this pollution is considerable and is borne by volunteers, government and civil society groups. In the municipal waste stream, plastic and Styrofoam comprise about 19% of the volume, and therefore 19% of the cost of national solid waste management.
Globally, plastic and Styrofoam pollution is a major concern. Large floating debris piles have formed in the Caribbean Sea and other major water bodies. These international waste debris are not only difficult to track, as they migrate with ocean currents, but they are prohibitively costly to clean up, some ending up on the Belize Barrier Reef. With the second largest barrier reef in the world, Belize is doing its part to reduce marine pollution and protect the natural environment that is the foundation of our vibrant tourism industry.