Group urges Government to hasten plastics legislation

An environmental campaign group believes that it is winning the war against single-use plastics but says that the Government must help by passing long-planned legislation banning its use.

Beyond Plastic Bermuda, an umbrella group involving different environmental organisations on the island, conducted a survey recently that, it said, showed that people were reducing their use of plastics.

However, it appears that legislation aimed at outlawing the use of SUPs has stalled, with no significant progress since it was first outlined in 2018.

Erich Hetzel, of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, and one of the people behind Beyond Plastic, said: “We were pleasantly surprised by the survey, to be honest, because when you’re doing something like this, you can get a bit frustrated and ask, are we actually having impact? Are we actually making a difference?

“What we realised through that survey was a lot of people actually now had the information. So if the Government was to bring in the legislation, it wouldn’t be a panic because people actually know how to do it. It’s just getting them to that next stage.”

The Government announced in the 2018 Throne Speech that it intended to eliminate single-use plastics in Bermuda. It said: “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.”

In March 2021, the home affairs minister, Walter Roban, told the House of Assembly that a public information campaign and consultation with businesses would take place that year with the goal of banning the importation of some products in 2022.

He said: “After consultation, we will introduce legislation to prohibit the importation of certain single-use plastics by 2022.”

In November 2022, Mr Roban said that the first phase in the Government’s plan to reduce single-use plastics would start in that parliamentary session.

Katie Berry, a former executive director of Keep Bermuda Beautiful and Beyond Plastic champion, said the group knew that there was a commitment from the Government to ban SUPs.

“We’ve just seen the legislation for corporate tax which took up a lot of energy. So if they’re busy with that, they’re not writing the legislation for single-use plastic.

“But it has come to a point where we’re now way behind the rest of the world and it does need to happen.

“I would like to think that behind the scenes it is being worked on, but it is time, it is way overdue. And, from our perspective, it’s incredibly frustrating.

“I think if we had the legislation coming, it would focus business’s minds, so you’d end up having that perfect situation where you have consumers, businesses and government working together.

“At the moment businesses are going, ‘Uh, you know, I’m not sure, do I have to do it? Do I not have to do it?’ ”

Mr Hetzel added: “It’s got to happen. We need government at this point. We really need it, because we see people who have made changes and have now kind of reversed course and slid backwards a bit.

“If one company has made a change that has had some financial impact and their competitors not, then why bother? We need government legislation on these types of issues.”

Royal Gazette