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Nov 23, 2022

San Pedro Enforces Ban on Plastic Bags

Sunday in San Pedro will be celebrated as Township Day, and in keeping with its thirty-eighth anniversary, the island’s leaders are banning the use of plastic bags. The laws have been in place for over a year now, but countrywide, there is still the persistent practice of carrying everything from grocery items, boxes, lunch, gifts, you name it, in plastic bags. But after usage, many of these bags become garbage themselves and oftentimes end up on the streets or in this case, in the lagoon or the sea. So in a conscious effort to make the island and its surrounding marine ecosystem healthier, San Pedro is enforcing the laws to ban plastic bags. News Five’s Marion Ali was on the island today and filed this report.


Marion Ali, Reporting
Thirty-eight years after it gained township, La Isla Bonita is trying to keep its landscape just that way, beautiful. It is doing so by enforcing the ban on the importation and use of plastic bags that oftentimes end up becoming hazardous when they are discarded or used as vessels to dump garbage back in the environment. To coincide with San Pedro’s township, municipal leaders are taking decisive action.


Gualberto Nunez

Gualberto Nunez, Mayor, San Pedro
“Plastic is everywhere. We have a lot of – the culture here on the island has always been to use it as landfill, and we want to discourage people from using it as landfill. We know that it is illegal to use it as landfill because they’re using not only plastics. It’s all sorts of garbage and you are getting a lot of chemicals reaching out into the ocean, affecting our environment.”


It’s a change that’s been in the making a long time now, with neighbouring countries also going green in terms of single-use plastics. So this enforcement in Belize’s most popular tourism destination should come as nothing new to anyone.  Andre Perez is the Belize Rural South Area Representative.  He is also the Minister of the Blue Economy.

Andre Perez

Andre Perez, Minister of the Blue Economy
“I don’t expect any kind of adversity or challenge by the Tour Guide Association or the tour operators or for those involved in the tourism sector because it’s in their interest. At the same time, I have every confidence that they are very environmentally-conscious, and they will do it with much gusto. And look, when you give the message to the tourists of what we are doing, they are going to embrace it as well. We take pride in ourselves and explain it to them – the wonders of what our aquatic blue spaces can offer and then you have this tour operator or this tour guide here being environmentally conscious, you’re impressed.”


To illustrate the magnitude of how plastics can be detrimental to the environment, the minister took us to a location in the San Pedro Lagoon and showed us where the accumulation of plastic litter has become much more than an eyesore. It is these types of problems that, as leaders, they are trying to prevent in years to come.


Andre Perez

“We need to involve our community and let them know what are the laws and the aim today is to actually ban plastics from the supermarkets, from the restaurants, from the food vendors. Let me give you an example: when you go to buy a hotdog here in San Pedro, they give you wrapped up in foil paper and they put it in a plastic bag, and they put some napkins in it. Imagine the amount of trash just for serving a hotdog. But if we get to our people, less trash on the island, I think this is a start. It is going to be difficult, it is going to be challenging but we must be persistent and that’s the game right now.”


Mayor of San Pedro, Gualberto Nunez feels that the best way to celebrate his town’s anniversary is to protect it.


Gualberto Nunez

“We don’t want to just celebrate it in a way where you say we’re going to have a party, but we want to celebrate it in an impactful way that we’re going to protect our environment and we want that to be resounding that we want to protect our environment.”


The overall enforcement of the laws is carried out by the Department of the Environment. Today, Deputy Chief Environmental Officer, Edgar Ek reiterated that the ban also applies to other types of single-use plastics as well, such as spoons, plates, and cups.  Enforcement in San Pedro, however, begins with plastic bags. With limited resources, the department will need to depend on its partners at the San Pedro Town Council.


Edgar Ek

Edgar Ek, Deputy Chief Environmental Officer, Department of the Environment

“We only have headquarters and that’s it and so its difficult for us to address many of the environmental issues that are plaguing the country, so that partnership here is of value to us to work together. The legislation covers importation, generation, possession, selling. I think those are the four major areas, which is almost everything.”


The need to transition from plastic to more environmentally-friendly alternatives is imperative, following findings of scientific research.


Edgar Ek

“Studies have been showing that there is microplastics found in fish, in different animals that we consume and there are traces of microplastics being found in human blood.”


The alternative is bio-degradable bags, like this one. Eco-bags have been imported in Belize for the past five years.  With the ban on plastic bags in San Pedro about to be enforced, these will no doubt become more popular on the island. Creative Marketing imports these bags and its owner, Jose Ketz says that they have imported enough bags to meet the expected growing demands.


Jose Ketz

Jose Ketz, Owner, Creative Marketing

“We do have a lot of bags because this is the big push that we ensure that we have a lot of bags. Now if we really take off and we have to buy four hundred thousand bags, then we’ll be in a bit of trouble right, but of course we will be able to get it. There are different sizes, there are two types, but this type is the major type that right now the grocery stores would use. They are very eco-friendly and the beauty about this bag is that it will eventually become dust. It goes back into dust. It’s a biodegradable bag and it will eventually become dust again so if you have it in your house maybe after a year or whatever and you go and pick it up, it will be dust.”

Ketz says that the bags are waterproof and strong enough to carry your grocery, and after purchasing them for about three dollars, they are reusable for up to a year. While the transition is in effect and while the last batches of plastic bags are being used, anyone who requires these plastic bags will be charged fifty cents per bag by the businesses. Marion Ali for News Five.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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