Palau’s law that bans the importation and distribution of plastic bags for commercial purposes takes effect today, November 8.

Different agencies such as the Solid Waste Management Office, the Environmental Quality Protection Board (EQPB), Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism (MNRET), and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) gave out free eco-bags at the major grocery and department stores in Koror to mark the beginning of the ban.

The law, which is called the Plastic Bag Use Reduction Act, only prohibits single-use plastic bags and does not include the biodegradable or compostable ones.

Public Infrastructure, Industries, and Commerce Minister Charles Obichang said that a survey is going on to make sure that business establishments follow the law that bans the commercial distribution of plastic bags.

Minister Obichang said that the Ministry of Infrastructure, Industries, and Commerce (MPIIC) is asking for the continued cooperation of the business establishments in the implementation of the law.

The Minister lauded the business sector for the visible support on the initiative by switching to the use of biodegradable plastics in their daily operation even prior to the actual ban.

Obichang also shared that some of the stores have already sent their imported non-biodegradable plastic bags back to where they were ordered.

As for those stocks of non-biodegradable plastic bags that remained on island, the minister said that they want to talk to business establishments on how to deal with it best and ensure that the action they will take will not harm the environment.

“I believe there will be another meeting with the business sector. If continued discussion will help that then we are willing to do that,” Minister Obichang said.

The Plastic Bag Use Reduction Act was signed by President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. on November 8, 2017 to ban stores or other retail establishments from importing or distributing bags to customers. Under the law, retail establishments are allowed only to provide biodegradable or compostable plastic bags to their customers.

It imposes a $1,000 penalty for each day that violators will be found selling or giving out single-use plastic bags while the importation of the non-biodegradable plastic bag will also be fined $1,000 per shipment. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)