Starting from 1 January, 2020 the manufacture, sale, supply as well as the distribution of plastic bags have been banned.
The newly amended legislation – the Environment Management (Budget Amendment) Act 2019 - defines plastic bags as a carry bag that is made entirely or in part with polyethylene, also referred to as ‘PET’, and is less than 50 microns in thickness and is used to carry or transport goods.
Minister for Waterways and Environment Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy said the ban was a crucial step in protecting Fiji’s waterways, oceans, rivers, and wildlife from plastic pollution.
The Department of Environment inspectors found a near full compliance from businesses on day one of the Ban coming into effect.
This ban does not apply to a carry bag that is:
a) an integral part of packaging such as pre-packaged off the shelf items or plastic bags for carrying bread;
b) used as garbage bags and bin liners; and
c) bags above 50 microns in thickness.
The ban will apply to bags being provided at any business outlet.
Minister Reddy reflected that these legislative changes leading to the plastic bag ban were part of a suite of measures created to reduce the impact of plastic pollution, to reduce the amount of waste going to the landfills and to strengthen Fiji’s recycling options.
The other forms of wastes like e-waste, construction waste etc. were all under consideration for possible future recycling options.
Minister Reddy also insisted that Fijians wanted to do more to protect the environment from the damage.
He generally found good support in the form of compliance with the banning of single-use plastic shopping bags.
Minister Reddy added that plastic pollution has been a significant contributor to Fiji’s environmental problems – “the actions we are taking now will result in a cleaner Fiji with a brighter environmental future”.
With the ban coming into force, the plastic ban and litter prevention officers were seen operating in full swing visiting business outlets throughout Fiji yesterday.
This was to ensure that the business outlets felt supported on the compliance requirements.
“The inspection teams from the Department of Environment generally found a strong sense of support with compliance from the businesses.”
“Overall, the compliance towards the changes has been excellent and we expect that over the next few days businesses would fully get accustomed to the ban,” said Minister Reddy.
The inspection teams from the Department came across near-full compliance.
There have been a number of forums where the changes have been explained and the Government is leaving no stone unturned in raising awareness through crucial platforms including municipal markets, retailers association, consumer council, etc.
Minister Reddy also said that the feedback on the ban has been clear – “Fijians appreciate the hard work being undertaken by the Government in maintaining Fiji’s pristine beauty and the need to protect our marine life”.
He added, “We have been working closely with businesses right from the time when levies were introduced and we will continue to work closely with them in seeking ways and means of suitable assistance with compliance”.
Minister Reddy requested that the businesses cooperate with the compliance inspection teams from the Department of Environment- “they are here to assist you to comply, so please make full use of these resources and information”.