Although the Beverage Container Bill finally seems set to go to Parliament for debate, T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) president Franka Costelloe-MacKenzie says the business group is still awaiting an opportunity to weigh in on that legislation.
In an interview with Guardian Media Limited, Costelloe-MacKenzie said the TTMA only met with Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte once about the bill, when he announced his intention to introduce it.
“We had one meeting with Minister Le Hunte where he revealed the intent to bring a bill but we have not had any actual consultations. That is what is pending at this point,” Costelloe-MacKenzie said.
She said T&T has a large beverage industry and a lot of people are going to be affected by the legislation.
“We have a large beverage industry and a lot of big stakeholders who are going to be affected. Everybody wants to make sure the interest of the community, the environment and their own personal interest is protected.”
She said the TTMA has not seen a copy of the proposed legislation and would have preferred to do so before it was laid in Parliament.
For more than two decades the state has been bandying about the idea of a Beverage Container Bill, meant to prevent littering by monetising empty beverage containers for recycling. The concept of a Beverage Container Bill dates back to the Basdeo Panday administration in 1999 but promises from successive governments to have it introduced into law have all fallen flat.
Now Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte is promising to have the bill passed by year’s end.
Outside of Parliament on Friday when he was approached for comment, the minister admitted that he might have bitten off more than he could chew when he initially promised the bill would be brought in 2018.
“I realise it’s a lot more work and I think I bit off more than I can chew with that promise. I can assure you now that it is in an advanced stage and therefore we hope to get it on the agenda this year,” Le Hunte said.
He promised that the bill will be in Parliament in a few weeks.
“We have been working on it for the past year and we are 98 per cent completed. The bill has been getting the attention of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, the Legislative Committee, and they have been putting it together. Putting a bill like this together is about getting the policy approved and then actually putting the legislation together. The last word is that by the end of this week it should be completed and thereafter it will then find its way back to Cabinet for final approval, making sure it is in keeping with policy and then it will be laid in Parliament as a bill for discussion and debate,” Le Hunte said.
According to the minister, by the end of 2019 plastic bottles littering sidewalks, drains and rivers will be a thing of the past.
“I did say that by the end of 2019 that the environment and a lot of the bottles that we have been seeing will be a thing of the past. It is our intention that we try to have the bill by this year... and once it is up and running, I will expect that the impact of the bill will be enormous,” he said.
Le Hunte is confident the bill’s “polluter-pay principle” will help create a recycling industry.
He said: “I am hoping where you have put a monetary value on the bottles plus easy access to return the bottles—this will result in the citizens playing their part in helping to get the bottles off the street.”
He added that there have been consultations with a “number” of people. “We have been trying to pass a bill like this since about the early 1990s and there have been a lot of discussions and one thing I can say is to really make this bill a reality, it will require a lot of give and take on all sides. What we do know is that it is something that is needed in Trinidad and Tobago,” Le Hunte said.