Government should go ahead and ban single-use plastic

Dear Editor,

The proposal by the Department of the Environment (DoE) to ban single-use plastics is a brilliant idea to promote a ‘clean and green’ Guyana and to a large extent, a better world.

Single-use plastic cannot be recycled; when it is discarded as waste it does not break down and remains as a permanent pollutant in the environment. For example, a candy wrapper will take at least 100 years to decompose. In fact, it is felt that every bit of plastic ever made is still in existence.

It is therefore clear that such material has no place in Guyana where, despite the emergence of environmentally damaging practices, our God-given gift of a fresh, beautiful and harmonious natural environment is still largely intact.

I was encouraged by Minister of State Joseph Harmon’s speech at State House to mark Earth Day 2018 because, in no uncertain terms, he reiterated government’s commitment to protecting Guyana’s environment. Now it is time for government to turn these words into action by enacting strong laws to protect the environment like a ban on single-use plastic.

If Guyana is to succeed in becoming an environmentally friendly nation, the people have to do their part by limiting or ceasing to use products that destroy the environment like plastic bags. Years ago, everything was packaged in material that did not destroy the environment, such as paper bags; today everything goes into plastic bags.

Plastic that finds its way into the ocean does great harm to our marine life and to our birds that feed on fish. Every year, a number of fish and aquatic animals such as seals, whales and turtles die from becoming entangled with plastic and from ingesting plastic which chokes them or causes other internal injuries. Even birds that feed on fish are affected when they ingest tiny bits of plastic.

While in the ocean, plastics also absorb dangerous chemicals and release toxic chemicals which in turn enter the food chain when fish mistake the pieces of plastic for food.

After careful consideration, it seems the campaign for hemp growth in Guyana and for hemp products is truly an excellent idea. Hemp is ready for harvesting after just 120 days. The seeds are used to make paint, varnish, ink, detergent and fuel and even biodegradable plastic.

Plastic garbage is accumulating dangerously in all our waterways, drains, canals and even at the seawall. It is high time to take firm action to stop this. It is also an       eyesore.

There is none so blind as he who will not see. There will be some persons among us who cannot see or will not see the good sense of using environmentally safe items instead of poisonous or dangerous ones. Others who know quite well that these things are harmful, will use them anyway for selfish reasons. To keep such persons in check, we need to ban harmful items or tax them heavily.  As such, people who do not give a damn about the environment and wish to continue using pollutants and hazardous materials will have to consider the serious penalties they would incur, financially and otherwise, if they want to pollute the land and endanger people’s health.

Minister of Business with responsibility for Tourism Dominic Gaskin has spoken about government’s goal to reduce or eliminate plastic waste by 2020. Therefore, I expect government to put appropriate incentives in place to reward ‘green’ businesses and also offer concessions like soft loans or tax breaks to bring new green businesses on stream.

This would go a long way to showing investors, the business community and the public at large that government is sincere about creating a clean and green Guyana. There are persons with the means and know-how to move the nation forward in this area if government gives positive support, especially by providing suitable incentives.

I call on government to give more support and guidance to businesses that promote environmental protection. I am ready, willing and able to accept such support from government and do my bit to protect the environment of my beloved Guyana.

Apart from taking bold steps to save the environment, I have also noted government’s efforts to enhance and showcase Guyana by selecting symbols of nationhood. I am referring to the Carifesta carriageway, the Kitty roundabout, erecting arches and more.

These are excellent initiatives and I hope to see more.

Yours faithfully,

Haji Roshan Khan (Sr)

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