T&T’s Beverage Container Bill – 17 Years in the Making

Panelists discussing The Beverage Container Bill (l-r): Maria Allong - Quality, Health, Safety and Environment Manager, SWMCOL  Dominic Hadeed - Member of TTMA, Owner & Managing Director, Blue Waters Products Limited  Rosanna Farmer – Project Director, Plastikeep

You may be wondering why FilmTT is blogging about this country’s Beverage Container Bill. Or rather, what does this Bill have to do with the local film industry. Well, FilmTT is a proud first-time sponsor of Green Screen The Environmental Film Festival, an annual two-week festival that not only features acclaimed local, regional and international films that highlight and explore crucial environmental issues but also hosts several thought-provoking and impactful panel discussions on this theme.[spacer height="20px"] The Beverage Container Bill panel discussion was a key component to the Festival’s theme this year, The Big Picture, which sought to address one of the major issues affecting local waste management, i.e. beverage container disposal.[spacer height="20px"] Held at NALIS Port of Spain, the discussion was preceded by two short films that drove home the critical need for more eco-conscious behaviours by our citizenry: Small Change directed by Dylan Quesnel focused on the need for Trinidad and Tobago to adopt more environmentally-friendly and sustainable ways to produce energy and The Trouble with Plastic by Maya Cross Lovelace was more intimately linked to the panel discussion at hand, highlighting the dangers of plastic and how this material negatively impacts the environment when it is not disposed of correctly. The stars, or rather the villains in these movies, were littered throughout each film, evoking emotional responses from the audience but also emphasising the urgent need for this Bill to be passed.[spacer height="20px"] So what exactly is the Beverage Container Bill about? The original bill was put together 17 years ago but has not been decided upon because of its long, confusing nature. Members of the private sector on the panel believe that both the public and private sector must work together to ensure that the bill is adopted by all and enforced to minimize further harmful effects on our environment. Dominic Hadeed, Owner & Managing Director of Blue Waters Products Limited, stressed the importance of implementing law to mandate adherence to the agreed-upon bill, especially by manufacturers.[spacer height="20px"] The Bill seeks to provide: • the regulation of the sale of beverages in sealable containers • the payment of a deposit on prescribed classes of beverage containers • the refund of the deposit on the return of reusable and recyclable containers • administrative and fiscal measures to encourage the reuse and recycling of beverage containers and reduce the disposal of beverage containers into the environment[spacer height="20px"] Two key areas of concern arising from the discussion were payment and refund of the deposits. In its current form, the Bill states that every reusable or recyclable beverage container sold or offered for sale in Trinidad and Tobago shall have a refund value. But who pays the deposits, where does the money go and who gains ownership of the returned materials are questions that are being asked and the bill is still in the process of answering. Rosanna Farmer, Project Director at Plastikeep, recommended that the panellists in this discussion meet to create a list of suggestions that can help to finalize a bill that can benefit from everyone.[spacer height="20px"] Surveys in the US and Canada show a 75-80% drop in beverage containers discarded along roadsides following the passage of a Bottle Bill (The Beverage Container Bill, 2012). The Beverage Container Bill, once implemented, has the potential to tackle some of the major environmental issues facing our country; issues that arise from the improper disposal of beverage containers and can possibly be solved by incentivizing the public to ‘do the right thing’.

Panellists discussing The Beverage Container Bill (l-r): Dr. Marlene Attzs – Member of the Economic Development Advisory Board, Evironmental Economist  Moderator, Tisha Marajh – Founder & Lead Consultant, Green Alternatives in Action (GAIA)