Haiti Bans Plastic Bags & Disposable Foam Products

The big question is how well this will be enforced: Miami Herald reports that as of October 1st the importation, manufacture or sale of plastic bags and disposable foam products will be banned in Haiti. Most such products are currently imported from the Dominican Republic.

Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe says the ban is aimed at attempting to address the nation's massive litter problem and protecting the nation's coastline, shore and remaining mangrove forests.

In built up areas Lamothe says non-biodegradable waste clogs "95 percent of our sewage system, creating mass floods in poor neighborhoods...that is costing the state more than $50 million a year, if we had the means to clean up."

Lamothe also notes that advantages of switching (returning...) to non-plastic biodegradable alternatives "will benefit Haiti's short, mid and long-term environmental interest." (Surfrider)

Two things, the first of which the Miami Herald piece jumps upon:

  1. Unless there are readily available alternatives and there is consistent enforcement of the ban, it will be ineffective and may well end up hurting some of the people most directly affected by the litter problem when sewer systems back up;
  2. Banning plastic and foam products has to be just the first step. In a situation where plastic pollution is to pervasive (as it is in Haiti and in many poor nations or neighborhoods where trash collection is non-existent) that trash then has to be cleaned up. Even if the source of pollution is removed, the existing pollution doesn't go away. Meaning, that $50 million/year price tag the Prime Minister mentioned still stands—although it may not be increasing anymore.

All told though, exactly the sort of thing we ought to be doing all around regarding single use plastic products.

Haiti Bans Plastic Bags & Disposable Foam Products
The big question is how well will it be enforced and what alternatives are currently readily available.

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