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President ratifies amendment banning import of single-use plastics to Maldives

23 December 2020, MVT 08:54
On 22 December 2020, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ratified the 18th Amendment Bill to the Export-Import Act (31/79) of Maldives, banning the import of products classified as single-use plastic. . PHOTO: PRESIDENT'S OFFICE
23 December 2020, MVT 08:54

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, on Tuesday, ratified the 18th amendment to Maldives’ Export-Import Act (No. 31/79), which under Section 7, bans the import of all products declared as ‘single-use’ plastics.

The amendment, passed during the 28th ‎sitting of Parliament’s ‎third session on December 7, vests the President with authority to compile and publicise a list of goods to be classified as single-use plastics.

According to a statement released by the President’s Office, “This will enable the Maldives to steadily phase out single-use plastic”.

In addition to mandating the government to release a temporary list of banned single-use plastics, the amendment also stipulates that it reveal a date for the law to be brought into effect before January 1, 2021, via official gazette.

Upon ratification, the ‎Act was ‎published in the gazette, rendering Section 12 of the 17th Amendment to the Export-Import Act (31/79) of Maldives henceforth void.

On November 5, President Solih, approved a proposed plan by the Ministry of Environment and endorsed by the President’s cabinet to phase out single-use plastics in Maldives by the year 2023.

President Solih initially announced the government's intention to phase out single-use plastics from the island nation during his maiden trip to the United Nations General Assembly in 2019.

The pledge is reiterated in the government's 2019-2023 Strategic Action Plan (SAP), which provides a framework for the state to implement measures in reaching the goals set by the incumbent administration. Single-use plastics or disposable plastics are items intended for one-time purposes only, regardless of whether they are recyclable, labelled as bioplastics, biodegradable or compostable.

In addition to single-plastic restrictions that have been initiated in various Maldives’ islands and atolls, one of the country’s first major moves against plastic came in July 2019, when the parliament passed a resolution to ban single-use plastics in Maldives from 2025 after students from 17 schools collectively submitted a proposal highlighting the dangers of single-use plastic.

Overall, plastic pollution continues to be a pressing concern for the low-lying archipelago. However, the state is yet to place measures that would curb the country-wide use of single-use-plastics for necessary facilities such as waste collection, and in the wake of the ongoing global pandemic, for use as personal protection.

Graphic depicting the average lifespan of various forms of plastic, many of which are strictly single-use products. IMAGE: SAFFU / THE EDITION

Numerous environmentalists have expressed that the effectiveness of any plastic ban hinges on ensuring that the need for its day to day use is addressed as well and that the populace is adequately informed and educated.

Referring to effective policies to address plastic waste Managing Director of UK-based NGO Common Seas Jo Royle said,” The Maldives should be commended for planning bold and radical action to rid the country of plastic garbage, which is spoiling the nation’s world-famous pristine environment.“

“If the country approaches the issue wisely, it will be able to significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the natural environment.”

This year, the plastic problem seems to have grown worldwide, with organisations such as the European Environment Agency reporting surges in single-use plastic following COVID lockdowns.

Speaking at the virtual event co-hosted by Maldives with Norway, and Antigua and Barbuda to launch the 'Group of Friends to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution’, Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid described the COVID-19 pandemic as a "wake-up call for humanity to build back better, in a more sustainable manner”, and called for a global response that would lead to an effective international framework to fight marine plastic pollution in the near future.