UPDATE: Admin proposes legislation banning importation of Styrofoam
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Matalasi Moliga has submitted to the Fono proposed legislation to ban the importation and sale in American Samoa of “polystyrene foam” or styrofoam containers — which he says has a “detrimental effect” on public health, land, and marine environment.
“Polystyrene foam is a notorious pollutant of marine environment — marine debris — that breaks down into smaller, non-biodegradable pieces that are often mistaken for food and ingested by seabirds and other marine life,” according to the proposed law: “Prohibiting the Use of Polystyrene Foam Containers Act”.
In his cover letter to Fono leaders, Lolo explained that polystyrene foam containers are commonly used locally for plates, cups, and trays. He said polystyrene contains chemicals that increase the risk of cancer, which is of great concern given the widespread use in the territory. Additionally, this foam is also a pollutant of the environment that cannot be effectively recycled, and the health and environmental dangers associated with the use of polystyrene products necessitates action.
According to Lolo, more than 100 jurisdictions in the US have already enacted similar bans on these products. He said there are viable alternative products that have been developed that are safer to use.
“Several local businesses and a number of U.S corporations have successfully replaced polystyrene foam containers with alternative, cost-competitive products.” Samoa News notes that the American Samoa
Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA), which drafted the proposal, has been conducting public awareness campaigns — in government, the private sector, and village levels — on the matter and the negative impact styrofoam containers have on the public’s health and environment. It has also offered alternatives to styrofoam.
The proposed law states in part that no person shall import, sell, offer for sale, or otherwise distribute polystyrene foam containers in American Samoa, unless exempted under this chapter. Further, any shipment of prohibited polystyrene foam containers arriving in the territory after the effective date of this Act shall be held at the port of entry. And the importer is responsible for sending out of American Samoa this shipment within 60-days of arrival as well as the full payment of all port costs and fees.
Penalties proposed in the measure call for “no less than” $50 and “no more than $100 for the first offense for conviction by the District Court of violating the ban. The fine is higher for repeat offenders — for example, subsequent offense, after the fourth-offense will have the violator fined no less than $500 and no more than $1,000.
The proposal also imposes a $10 enforcement fee per violation and is placed in a separate account solely for enforcement purpose of the proposed law. ASEPA is charged with carrying out provisions of the new proposed law.
The measure outlines “polystyrene foam containers” that are exempted: imported prepackaged food; trays used for raw meat, poultry, fish or frozen foods; polystyrene foam coolers and ice chests intended for re-use; and packaging materials for non-food items.
The proposed law also allows for a person to seek an exemption because of “undue hardship” which is constructed to include, but not limited to:
• situations where there are no acceptable alternatives to packaging with polystyrene foam containers for reasons that are unique to the applicant; and
• situations where compliance with this chapter would deprive a person of a legally protected right.
In order to aid in the territory’s transition from polystyrene foam containers to acceptable alternatives, the Administration is offering a one-year temporary excise tax reduction and it would be implemented as follows:
• for a period of one-year, beginning on the Act’s passage date and ending the day before the Act’s effective date, acceptable alternatives to polystyrene foam containers imported for commercial use and resale purposes will be eligible for a temporary reduction of the excise tax — which is required by law — from 8% to 4% of all such items.
• ASG Treasury’s Customs Division is responsible for assessing and collecting the temporary excise tax; and
• ASEPA will be responsible for generating and periodically updating an official listing of acceptable alternatives to polystyrene foam containers which qualify for the temporary excise reduction.
In order to allow a reasonable time for the transition required by this Act, it shall become effective one year after passage and approval by the Fono, which reconvenes next week Monday, Feb. 10th where the measure will be officially introduced in both chambers.