Video: Minister On Eliminating Single Use Plastics

August 26, 2021 | 6 Comments

[Updated] Minister of Home Affairs Walter Roban is holding a press conference this afternoon [Aug 26] on single-use plastics in Bermuda. We will have additional coverage later on and in the meantime the live video is below.

Update: The Minister said, “Because of these three threats: climate change, ocean pollution and human health, the Government has committed to eliminating single-use plastics by 2022.”

The Minister said that “As of 1st September this year, the policy paper will be available to review for public consultation by visiting forum.gov.bm.

“Some examples of the items that will be subject to a ban include, but are not limited to:

  • Styrofoam food service containers [e.g. clamshell and hinged containers, bowls, plates, hot and cold beverage cups].
  • Plastic utensils, including cups, spoons, forks and knives, lids, straws and stirrers.
  • Plastic bags for bagging food and goods at restaurants, retail outlets and grocery stores.
  • Plastic-lined paper cups and food containers.

Update: The live broadcast has concluded and the 14-minute replay is below

Update 3.10pm: Minister Roban’s remarks:

Good day to all members of the media and the listening public.

“The horrific impact of plastic on the environment is a global issue. In the era of the manifested impact of climate change, Bermuda must consistently act to preserve its oceans. To this end, single-use plastics will be eliminated by 2022, and the intervening years will be spent educating the community about recycling and reusable items and encouraging greater sensitivity to the ocean and its importance to our lives.”

That is a quote from the 2018 Speech from the Throne.

Since that time, this Government, led by the Ministry of Home Affairs, has committed to eliminating single-use plastics [SUPs] in Bermuda by 2022.

Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge the presence of Mr. David Northcott of the Ministry of Home Affairs who has led the development of the Government’s policy on single-use plastics, ably assisted by Dr. Struan Smith, also from the Ministry of Home Affairs, and Ms. Vanese Flood Gordon of the Ministry of Public Works.

In the 2018 Speech from the Throne, the public may recall the Government spoke of the impact of plastic on both the marine environment and on climate change and how it has become a horrific global issue and noted that Bermuda must act to preserve its oceans from plastic waste.

There is growing evidence that plastic pollution in the air, on land, and our oceans and seas are also detrimental to human health and well-being. We continue to learn about the potential harm that micro-plastics, in particular, are having on human health – especially when they enter the ocean’s food chain, which threatens our food security.

When large pieces of plastic remain in the environment, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming microplastics. Microplastics measure less than 5 mm, can stay in the ocean for centuries, and are of increasing concern as they represent a growing portion of marine litter. As such, microplastics are known to interact with a wide range of species, including plankton, fish, clams, seabirds, and marine mammals, in diverse marine habitats.

Microplastics also impact humans. Research is ongoing, but a recent study conducted by the University of Newcastle in Australia has estimated that while consuming everyday food items, the average individual may ingest up to 5 grams of plastic a week, or the equivalent of 1 credit card worth of plastic. I’ll give you a moment to think about that.

Because of these three threats: climate change, ocean pollution and human health, the Government has committed to eliminating single-use plastics by 2022. We have also committed to educating the public about recycling and reusable items and encouraging greater sensitivity to the ocean and its importance to our lives. One of the many unfortunate side-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is a projected 30% increase in plastic waste in 2020 compared to 2019, so this initiative is even more critical.

single use plastics bermuda aug 2021

I am aware that many in our community may ask, “What are single-use plastics?” Single-use plastics or SUPs are plastic products that are used only once before disposal. They are made primarily from fossil fuel-based chemicals, otherwise known as petrochemicals, and are meant to be disposed of right after use—often, in mere minutes. They are most commonly used for packaging and service ware, such as plastic bottles, wrappers, straws, cutlery and carrier bags. The process of extracting and transporting those fuels, then manufacturing the plastic creates billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases, thereby further contributing to climate change.

As of 2017, roughly 348 million metric tonnes of plastic is produced each year. This number is expected to double in ten years. Approximately half of the plastic made is specifically for single-use purposes. It is no surprise that SUPs are the top ten most common items found in international coastal clean-up efforts.

Many large countries worldwide have already instituted bans on single-use plastics in one form or another, including Canada, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the United Kingdom, some states in the United States, the European Union, China, and India. However, many other small island states like Bermuda have also introduced single-use plastic bans. They include Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

Although much of the plastic waste in the ocean around us and found on our beaches does not originate in Bermuda, we still need to play our part in the global community’s effort to eliminate plastic waste, tackle climate change, and protect human health.

To that end, back in March of this year, I proposed a three-phase approach to the elimination of SUP’s in Bermuda with the main points outlined as follows:

  • Phase 1 – Public information campaigns and consultations to review and provide feedback on the proposed bans, introduce legislation to ensure alternatives to plastic products are fully biodegradable and allow companies and suppliers to use up their existing stock of SUPs.
  • Phase 2 – Introducing legislation prohibiting the sale, distribution, and use of the banned SUPs while giving importers and businesses time to use their existing stocks and source biodegradable alternatives.
  • Phase 3 – Recommencement of public consultations to assess the bans’ impact and consult on the next round of plastic items to be banned and legislation to prohibit the importation, sale, distribution, and use of further SUPs by the end of 2025. This phase will also see public education campaigns on the dangers of SUPs continue.

As part of phase 1, I announced the creation of a policy paper titled “Regulating Single-Use Plastics in Bermuda [NDA3] “. This document outlines the Government’s direction to eliminate single-use plastics and the intent to publish this paper for discussion so that the general public, businesses and environmental organisations may have their say and contribute to the solution.

I am excited to announce that as of 1st September this year, the policy paper will be available to review for public consultation by visiting forum.gov.bm.

Some examples of the items that will be subject to a ban include, but are not limited to:

  • Styrofoam food service containers [e.g. clamshell and hinged containers, bowls, plates, hot and cold beverage cups].
  • Plastic utensils, including cups, spoons, forks and knives, lids, straws and stirrers.
  • Plastic bags for bagging food and goods at restaurants, retail outlets and grocery stores.
  • Plastic-lined paper cups and food containers.

At this time, I must take a moment to acknowledge the retailers, grocery stores, restaurants and hoteliers that have already led the way by replacing plastic bags, containers, and straws with greener products and encouraging the use of reusable shopping bags. They have demonstrated we can do it. I would also like to note that we have already started consultations with the Chamber of Commerce, who will be consulting with their members.

I recognise that the commitment to eliminate single-use plastics was made before the COVID-19 pandemic, which we continue working to overcome. I am also aware that, as we have found with moving to other renewable products such as LED lights, there is often a disparity both in price and between the various customs tariffs which can disincentivise importing these products, and the same is true for single-use plastic replacement products. The government will investigate this.

Our consultations will include as many stakeholders as possible, including retailers, importers, wholesale businesses and of course environmental groups and the general public. I urge everyone to engage with us in the consultations so we can work together to focus on the ultimate goal of this policy – eliminating single-use plastics – and to bring it to fruition as soon as possible.

In closing, I have complete confidence that we can play our part in eliminating single-use plastics, reducing climate change, keeping our oceans clean and improving human health. Like many, I look forward to better, cleaner Bermuda.

Thank you. At this time, I welcome questions from the media.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Jus' Askin' says:

    i truly welcome this drive ;-) ;-)

    what about plastic beverage bottles ie water bottles, soda/pop bottles and the like?

    it doesn’t matter if the plastic is used once, twice or thrice

    if it is not disposed of properly it will be a hazard :-(

    we need a true recycling program which includes plastic

    we import way to many items to make this plastic pollution problem go away

    personal accountability and proper disposal is what is needed

    “…Bills & Trash Do Not Make Themselves…” ;-)

    • Ringmaster says:

      I agree with your comments, but a ban on single use plastics is a start, but shouldn’t need public consultation. That means it gets pushed down the road. Government must copy, since they can’t lead, many other islands and countries in banning single use plastic – now. Many Caribbean Islands have banned single use plastic. Time for Bermuda to follow.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      “it doesn’t matter if the plastic is used once, twice or thrice

      if it is not disposed of properly it will be a hazard”

      And unfortunately that is the crux of the matter . There’s nothing wrong with single use plastics as such it’s the litterbugs who toss it everywhere indiscriminately as soon as they’ve finished with it.
      Just look at the amount of plastic beverage bottles and take out food containers that litter out public spaces.

      On the flip side , Bermuda is an incredibly small place and the bulk of plastic waste in our waters originates elsewhere.
      I recall a massive hurricane raking the Caribbean some years back and a few months later there was plastic litter all over the place surrounding our shoreline island wide that originated way to our south because of that incident .

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      “what about plastic beverage bottles ie water bottles, soda/pop bottles and the like?”

      Well, we could always go back to glass. Introduce a return policy (like the United States, give 5 or 10 cents for every return) so that glass bottles can be recovered, steralised and reused.

  2. Unbelievable says:

    This is good news. Just please don’t drag it out with a consultation. We all know by now that this stuff is bad. Just bang the legislation through.

  3. Sy says:

    Taking advice from Australia at this time is very dangerous, as people there are going through hell with their government. Climate change is another money laundering scheme which is why we don’t have any money.

    At least there is some type of research here compared to covid that has no evidence. What type of impact are we going to have in the future and what else will be taken from us.

    This is just the beginning of our lives changing, watch out it could be a rocky road.

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