JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Several local businesses have adopted environmentally friendly measures in their operations, in line with the Government’s policy to reduce the volume of plastic waste in the country.
  • Starting January 1, 2019, the Government will be imposing a ban on the importation, manufacture, distribution and use of specific categories of plastic packaging materials.
  • Among the businesses that have already taken action to support the Government’s move are fast-food giant, Island Grill, and the popular wholesale club, MegaMart.

Several local businesses have adopted environmentally friendly measures in their operations, in line with the Government’s policy to reduce the volume of plastic waste in the country.

Starting January 1, 2019, the Government will be imposing a ban on the importation, manufacture, distribution and use of specific categories of plastic packaging materials.

Among the businesses that have already taken action to support the Government’s move are fast-food giant, Island Grill, and the popular wholesale club, MegaMart.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Island Grill, Thalia Lyn, tells JIS News that the decision to use biodegradable material arose from a deep concern and sense of responsibility for protecting Jamaica’s natural environment.

“I drive through sections of the city every day and I am appalled by the plastic and styrofoam in the gullies, which are heading straight out to sea, and you know how that affects our marine life.

Island Grill decided that we were going to live our motto, which is ‘Eat Good, Live Good’,” she says.

The CEO notes that the concept of “living good” is a holistic approach, which promotes good environmental stewardship by the company.

“One of the things that we decided to do is to take care of our country and the communities that we serve. So, our resolution for 2015 was to find new ways to reduce the amount of plastic and styrofoam that we use,” she says.

In 2015, the company commenced the process of phasing out the use of plastic in its business and replacing this with biodegradable food boxes made from recycled paper and branded with its iconic logo.

Noting that although the “earth friendly” food boxes was met with widespread skepticism by the public, Mrs. Lyn says the fast-food chain persevered in its objective of phasing out the use of plastic and polystyrene across its 18 restaurants islandwide.

“Some customers thought we were taking a retrograde step, that we were giving them ‘box’ to eat out of, and that we were going backwards instead of forward. They didn’t like the brown colour, because it looks like cardboard,” she says.

Mrs. Lyn tells JIS News that although the biodegradable boxes are more expensive than the plastic containers the company previously used, it was a worthwhile investment in Jamaica’s environmental future.

“As of September 2017, we were completely styrofoam-free. People now look at Island Grill as the leader, the pioneer in the quick-service restaurant area, looking out for the environment. We are working on the plastic cups to get rid of the plastic and replace it with paper,” she adds.

The company has also partnered with environmental watchdog, Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) on its public-awareness campaign, ‘Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica’. Launched in 2015, the campaign seeks to improve the attitudes of most Jamaicans towards their environment.

Mrs. Lyn, who is an advocate for the Government’s ban on plastic, says the company’s journey has inspired other business operators to introduce environmentally friendly options in their operations.

“The difference that I have seen is that people are more conscious. We have raised the consciousness, if nothing else. We all have to get on board. It’s not just Island Grill… . If each company is a little more aware and tries to do their part, it would make a big difference,” she adds.

Meanwhile, popular retail chain, MegaMart, has been actively promoting environmental awareness initiatives for several years, through its recycling drives, wellness fairs and introduction of its reusable branded MegaMart eco-bag.

The bags were introduced in 2011 in conjunction with several of its major suppliers. These are available across its four stores islandwide.

The bags came about in an effort to make the company more environmentally conscious and efficient, which places the popular store among a growing number of entities in Jamaica and the world that have curtailed the use of non-degradable plastic bags.

Head of MegaMart, Gassan Azan, tells JIS News that the company supports the Government’s move to implement the ban on plastic, adding that the company remains committed to doing its part in eradicating single-use plastic bags.

“We at MegaMart, along with other members of the retail shopping and supermarket community, have been meeting in an effort to come up with additional ways to accommodate shoppers while seeking the best way forward to reduce the carbon footprint of Jamaica,” he notes.

Mr. Azan contends that the choices made today will define the country’s environmental future. “This may not be easy, but we hope that policymakers and stakeholders will work together to identify cost-effective alternatives to the single-use plastic bags, polystyrene and straws… to work towards a world free of plastic bags,” he says.

The ban includes single-use plastic carrier/shopping bags; expanded polystyrene foam, commonly referred to as styrofoam; and plastic drinking straws.

The restriction on single-use bags applies to carriers with dimensions at and below 24 inches by 24 inches (24”x24”), and includes bags commonly referred to as ‘scandal bags’ and ‘T-shirt bags’, which are used primarily in the retail and wholesale trade.