GEORGETOWN –– Importation of styrofoam will no longer be allowed, effective April 1, with the Ministry of Finance considering tax incentives for importers who are interested in bringing in alternatives.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment yesterday, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has been asked not to process declarations for businesses desirous of importing styrofoam (expanded polystyrene) after March 31.
The ministry explained that following an announcement, last year, Guyana was prohibiting the importations effective January 1, it had granted a three-month waiver to importers of styrofoam food containers who had entered into transactions prior to January 1, 2016 –– the date when the prohibition kicked in.
The wavier expires on March 31; and to ensure the successful implementation, the ministry has requested that the Guyana Revenue Authority discontinue processing declarations for businesses desirous of importing styrofoam.
At the end of the waiver period, no importer will be allowed to clear any shipment of styrofoam food containers, the ministry made clear yesterday.
“To cushion the expected increase in cost of alternative products, the ministry has requested that tax incentives be considered by the Ministry of Finance.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is spearheading the prohibition.
Government has been arguing that styrofoam, highly popular in the food business as containers,
takes more than 500 years to biodegrade, and because of its lightweight nature can easily travel through gutters, storm drains, or in the wind, and reach the ocean.
It had been a major problem when the new administration took office last year and started a city clean-up. The drains and waterways were filled with boxes and cups.
“In the marine environment, polystyrene breaks down into smaller articles that are ingested by wildlife causing suffocation. Polystyrene contains toxic chemicals that leach into hot foods and beverages posing serious threats to human health, including respiratory illnesses and cancer.
In most cities and counties, polystyrene cannot be recycled and is never compostable,” EPA says on its website.
Polystyrene is not recyclable in Guyana, costing millions to clear from drains, alleyways, and roadways.
Government is hoping that the use of alternatives like paper plates and cups, will significantly reduce the garbage problem.
Key partners in the implementation of the ban include the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Institute of Applied Science and Technology, the Guyana National Bureau of Standards and the Private Sector Commission.
Currently, the regulations in prohibiting the importation, manufacture and sale of expanded polystyrene products shall be liable upon summary conviction to a fine of no less than $50,000.
In effect, no food service establishment can sell food using styrofoam boxes and containers.
Food service establishments found to be in contravention will be issued a written warning prohibiting the establishment from selling or providing food for consumption in the container or face summary jurisdiction proceedings and be liable upon summary conviction to a fine of no less than $100,000.