Ban on importation of single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags and polystyrene takeaway boxes

The ban on the importation of single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags and polystyrene takeaway boxes in Vanuatu will start on January 31.

By Jane Joshua

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade (MOFAICET), which has responsibility for Vanuatu’s Ocean Policy, is informing the general public about an important decision taken by the Council of Ministers (CoM) in December 2017 to ban the importation and local manufacturing of non-biodegradable plastics.

The Government’s decision to ban certain non-biodegradable plastics was based on the outcome of field study reports done by environmental marine coastal groups, working jointly with the Department of Environment on areas around Efate which discovered that a considerable amount of different forms of plastic waste have already entered our oceans.

Plastic waste in the ocean is referred to as marine litter.

In 2018, the government will be taking a number of important steps to manage the issue of marine litter and sincerely hopes that business houses, local authorities and the general public will assist the government in keeping our oceans healthy and clean.

The government, through the CoM has agreed to the following first steps in the management of marine litter:

1. To ban the importation of single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags and polystyrene takeaway boxes in Vanuatu starting on the January 31, 2018.

2. That local manufacturers of plastic bags can only use biodegradable plastics beginning on the January 31, 2018.

3. To review and provide a new method for disposal of plastic bottle waste in Vanuatu starting on January 31, 2018.

4. To give a grace period of six months for companies to use up their current stock of single-use plastics and polystyrene takeaway boxes, expiring on the June 30, 2018.

5. To enact a Regulation under the Waste Management Act to implement these changes by the end of January 2018.

6. That the Government will support other alternatives to plastics such as traditional baskets.

The government therefore wishes to advise all importers and manufacturers of the items mentioned above to take note of these dates.

In the coming months, the Oceans Policy Management Sub-Committee under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade will be announcing and implementing additional steps aimed at further reducing marine litter.

The Government of Vanuatu is the first country in the Pacific to establish a National Oceans Policy, with the aim of better managing our ocean and resources for present and future generations.

In addition, Vanuatu has already committed to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030 which is to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.

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