US Virgin Islands bans plastic bags

Gov. Mapp signs proposal into law Oct. 7, 2016.

Kenneth Mapp, governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, has signed his proposal designed to reduce litter and protect marine life into law Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, according to a Government House announcement.

Bill No. 31-0379 will restrict the use of plastic shopping bags in the territory beginning in 2017. Members of the 31st Legislature unanimously supported the governor’s proposal Sept. 20. It was one of three solid waste management reform bills sent down to senators by the governor in February.

The law requires businesses and organizations to use reusable bags or recyclable paper bags with the goal of eliminating plastic bags at point of sale checkouts. Plastic bags still will be allowed where no acceptable substitute exists, such as for wrapping prepared foods or meats. The plastic bag regulations take effect Jan. 1, 2017. However, penalties will not be assessed until April 1, 2017, to allow retailers time to make the transition.

Enactment of the plastic bag ban places the Virgin Islands in a leadership position in the region, according to the Government House press release announcing the new legislation. While most Caribbean islands have debated banning plastic bags ,only a few jurisdictions have implemented restrictions.

Mapp called the new law a victory on behalf of public health and the environment.

“I want to thank the members of the legislature and the members of my administration who worked efficiently and collaboratively to ensure the passage of this landmark legislation in the territory, but we cannot stop now,” Mapp writes in his transmittal letter to Senate President Neville James. “Once we have fully enacted all three of our recycling bills, the territory will be well on its way to a cleaner and greener community.”

Bills to establish a redemption value on every beverage container sold in the U.S. Virgin Islands and to enforce recycling and the separation of trash are awaiting consideration by the 31st Legislature’s Rules Committee. Mapp told senators that, once enacted, the new laws will result in a significant reduction in the amount of waste going into our landfills.

“I urge the members of the legislature to pass my proposed bills on source separation (Bill No. 31-0380) and on comprehensive waste reduction and recycling programs (Bill No. 31-0316),” he writes. “These proposed practices have been implemented on a national level and have proven to be quite successful. We must adopt these measures if we truly want to preserve the beauty and purity of the Virgin Islands. These measures will result in a significant reduction in the amount of waste going into our landfills.”

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