Eight vendors showed up at the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority town hall meeting at the St. Croix Curriculum Center to learn what they had to do to comply with ban on plastic bags.
Kelvin Vidal, VIWMA general counsel, gave a presentation and answered questions.
Amanda Bradshaw, representing Frederiksted’s Stop and Shop, wondered whether biodegradable bags would be allowed. She quickly got her answer: “No.”
“We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” said Shawn Hamed, representing the Plaza West grocery store.
In his presentation, Vidale emphasized dates. He said the legislation goes into effect Jan. 1. Vendors have until April 1 to become fully compliant with the law or face fines, which will be “not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 for each day of violation.” Waste Management already has enforcement officers. Vidale said they will work in partnership with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs to ensure compliance.
He also talked about the reasoning behind the bill. He said ban was important because of “what we sell” – access to a beautiful natural environment.
He also pointed out the territory is facing problems with its landfills reaching capacity. Plastic bags are also a problem with some wildlife. Turtles reportedly mistake them for food – jelly fish.
The ban doesn’t just cover grocery stores. It also covers gas stations where goods are sold. Exceptions include plastic bags for fruits and vegetable, laundry bags and small bags for prescriptions.
The ban was passed by the Legislature in September and signed into law by the governor in October. Vidale said it had been under discussion for more than two years.
After the meeting Vidale told the Source that Roger Merritt Jr., the new executive director of Waste Mangement, would officially start work on Tuesday. His hiring was announced last week by the authority’s board. He has worked on waste management facilities in Georgia, Maryland and Virginia.
He served as an environmental engineer for the State of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division, Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Unit where he was responsible for three construction and demolition waste landfills, and eight municipal solid waste landfills.