T&T Gov’t bans styrofoam imports

(Trinidad Guardian): Government has approved a ban on Styrofoam products which will take effect in 2019, but which will see an almost immediate ban on the importation of Styrofoam products into the country.

Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis made the announcement at a conference at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary on Thursday. She said the ban was approved by Cabinet two weeks ago. Robinson-Regis said local polystyrene manufacturers will be given time to make their products environmentally-friendly, and will be done in a way not to affect them financially. She said a team has been set up “that is working with the current producers of Styrofoam so that they will not be totally out of pocket.”

In addition to the planned ban, Government has also been encouraging citizens to begin recycling other waste such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles, drink cartons, aluminium cans and glass bottles.

The phasing out of polystyrene foam products has already begun in Tobago after the THA passed a motion to do so last year.

THA official Linford Beckles told a Joint Select Committee of Parliament in May this year that while the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) did not have the legislative clout to make changes, it was working outside the ambit of the law to address the problem.

He said while there are currently “no taxes on Styrofoam products coming into Trinidad and Tobago,” there are taxes on “environmentally friendly alternatives,” which he said did not “align with environmental ideals.” He suggested there was a need for the gap to be addressed.

Beckles said the THA is looking at two alternatives to replace the Styrofoam, one is bagasse-based and the other is corn-based, both of which are coming out of the United States.

The containers, according to Beckles, “are quite sturdy and are able to contain a lot of grease.”

He said the Ministry of Planning is working with corporate interests “who produce Styrofoam to assist in retooling plants to manufacture the containers in Trinidad and Tobago.”

The THA is currently working with the Castara Tourism Association to make Castara the first Styrofoam-free village in the country, “efforts in that regard are very much underway,” he said.

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