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    Haiti bans use of plastic bags
    Port-au-Prince bars use of plastic, foam food containers, polyethylene bags amid concern that country's poorest consumers won't be able to afford alternatives

    Haiti imposed a ban on plastic and foam food containers as well as black polyethylene bags on Monday, amid concern that the country's poorest consumers would not be able to afford the substitutes.


    The ban is the first in a series of government measures aiming to help the environment of the poorest country in the hemisphere.


    A broader prohibition on plastic and petroleum-based products in the Caribbean country could be combined with the eventual local production of biodegradable alternatives.


    Clogged canals and roadside drains, as well as mountains of trash at street corners made up mostly of discarded plastic products, have been part of the landscape in the Haitian capital for the last decade.


    "Look at the number of containers that arrive in this country, with their negative effects," Haiti's Environment Minister Jean Vilmond Hilaire said.


    "If we launch a local industry that can manufacture these containers with our own agricultural waste that would be best."


    The ban follows a global trend that has seen a number of major cities impose plastic bag restrictions, as well as some poor countries like Rwanda and Bangladesh.


    But switching to potentially more expensive bio-degradable bags and containers might further inflame consumers. Protests in recent weeks throughout the country of 10 million, including one on September 30 in the capital, have blasted the government for high prices.


    The first batch of eco-friendly containers arrived in Haiti two weeks ago, imported from the United States, and Hilaire keeps a small stack of them next to his desk. "These are made from agricultural waste," he said, holding up a light brown, hinged clamshell food container.


    Although the ban went into effect Oct 1, Hilaire said there will be a three-month grace period.


    A feasibility study, funded by the government of France, will be conducted over the next month to examine the possibility of locally producing biodegradable food containers.




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    Photo: Shaul Golan