MINISTER in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West says local manufacturers are on track to start producing alternative products to Styrofoam by the end of this year.
She was responding to a question in Senate on Tuesday.
She reported Cabinet at its meeting on June 21, 2018 agreed that the importation of the finished Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Products for the food and beverage sector be banned and to the removal for a period of two years in the first instance of the customs duty on the importation of the alternative biodegradable products to EPS products. These products include bioplastics and bagasse.
West said after the Cabinet decision the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs in collaboration with the Trade Ministry and Finance Ministry developed the legal framework to give effect to the ban.
"Upon completion of the legislative framework, the ban on the importation of finished EPS products in the food and beverage sector will be placed in effect."
She said a meeting was held on February 25, 2018 to discuss the way forward to effect the Cabinet's decision in the shortest possible time. She said it was agreed the Customs and Excise Division of the Ministry of Finance would present to the Trade Ministry the finalised customs codes for the Styrofoam products and upon receipt of those codes the ministry would provide notification to the relevant international organisations within 20 days.
"It was also agreed at the meeting that upon the advice of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, a prohibition order would be engaged to effect a ban on Styrofoam. It was agreed that this will be communicated to the Office of the Attorney General by the Ministry of Trade and Industry."
Independent Senator Amrita Deonarine asked if there was timeline for the ban.
West replied: "There is no specific date identified. As soon as these steps I have outlined are completed we will introduce the ban."
She said the only timeline identified was the target date for current manufacturers to start producing safer products and that was the last quarter of 2019. She added that they seemed to be well ahead of that.
West said the Styrofoam industry in TT employed just over 400 people and firms in the industry had invested upwards of $65 million over the period 2011-2016 with a total asset base of close to $30 million. Some firms have been in operation for a number in years including one existing for more than 40 years. The industry generated approximately $5.6 million in revenue to the Government in 2016 from taxes.
She said one of the major manufacturers had been in discussions with a manufacturer of biodegradable resin which could be incorporated into the current manufacturing process.
"It is anticipated that several manufacturers of EPS products will be compliant by the last quarter of 2019 once their products are biodegradable EPS which is ahead of the directive of the Cabinet.