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Styrofoam, single-use plastic ban, step in the right direction

"ONE step at a time. It is not the solution we want, but it is a step in the right direction." Wildlife and Environmental Protection of TT (WEPTT) posted the above comment on Monday on its Facebook page regarding the Finance Minister’s announcement about the ban of Styrofoam and single-use plastic, effective January 1.

Chairman of the NGO, Kristian Rattansingh, told Newsday: "We are happy to see the ban on Styrofoam has been put into place in the food industry. We hope to see it becomes a complete ban on the importation of Styrofoam. The single-use plastics should not only in Government offices but in all areas."

In the budget presentation on Monday, Minister Colm Imbert proposed to eliminate the importation Styrofoam and single-use plastic nationwide. Referring to the announcement as "good news", the minister said it was in keeping with Government’s pursuit of placing the environment at the centre of national development.

As an initial step, the importation of Styrofoam for use in the food service industry would be banned. Manufacturers of food containers have to introduce additives to make their products biodegradable. To encourage behavioural change, Imbert said plastic water bottles in Government offices would no longer be used. Instead, it would be substituted with coolers with filters. These measures are to become effective from January 1.

Speaking on behalf of WEPTT, Rattansingh said the organisation take away two other mains points regarding the environment. "We hope that the agriculture sector would have gotten a larger budget so that the forest protection and conservation as well as wildlife conservation would have more. There was some review on forest management and wildlife conservation, and we hope to see something comes out of that."

WEPTT’s mission is to protect and conserve the natural environment, habitat and wildlife of TT and uphold the laws around them.

An official from the Environmental Management Authority said the organisation's official and initial response had been posted on its social media outlets.

In a Facebook post, the EMA congratulated the Parliament on the ban imposed. From an environmental perspective, Imbert also said the Government plans to remove all taxes and duties on all LED bulbs for five years. Government plans to undertake a programme to remove all antiquated incandescent bulbs in the 400, 00 households in TT as a public service and a "major boost" to energy conservation.

The Minister added, "I propose to increase the solar water heating equipment tax credit from its 25 per cent to 100 per cent of the cost of the solar water heating equipment, up to a maximum of $10,000."This initiative will benefit approximately 12,000 households and will take in effect from January 1, 2020."

Newsday took to the streets of San Fernando to speak to the public on the budget and shared some of the main highlights given that many people said they did not listen to it. Cocoyea resident Chris Clyne, 65, the budget appeared to have some good initiatives.

Another man, Frankie Browne, who lives at Princes Town said he was happy that Cepep workers will be given an increase in salaries. He referred to the overall budget as "failure thing" saying it does not benefit poor people like squatters.

"Poor people, like rich people, have to eat to live. When we (poor people) go to the supermarket we have to stretch our money like a rubber band to make ends meet. The budget had nothing for squatters."

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