Children wait in line to sell plastic bottles at a Haiti recycling office in Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. Haitian merchants on Monday ignored the first day of a government ban on the sale and general use of plastic bags and foam food containers. Dieu Nalio Chery / AP Photo
By TRENTON DANIEL
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitian merchants on Monday ignored the first day of a government ban on the sale and general use of plastic bags and foam food containers.
In a busy, crowded market in the hillside district of Petionville, dozens of vendors openly sold the tightly rolled bags and big packages of to-go food containers seemingly without concern that they would be stopped. Some said they will keep peddling the goods if the government doesn’t provide alternative jobs. Others said they will sell something else if the government enforces the ban.
“It’s fine if the government wants to ban the containers but it also needs to create an alternative,” said Innocent Petit-Frere, a 57-year-old vendor who, like many others, buys the foam containers from the neighboring Dominican Republic in bulk. He sells packages of 100 containers for $6.87.
Petit-Frere wondered how people would be able to eat meals on the go without access to the foam containers, which have become ubiquitous in the capital.
“You have to eat, and you just can’t put the food on the ground,” he said from his store as co-workers piled bags of imported rice.
The office of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe announced the ban in August to clear some of the litter that’s strewn across Port-au-Prince and clogs drainage channels. The measure will most certainly affect Haiti’s poor majority, many of whom make a living by selling the bags and boxes on the streets.
It’s unclear how the government plans to enforce the ban in markets. But customs officials are under orders to confiscate the bags and foam boxes if they find them on the border or in airports and seaports, said Salim Succar, special adviser to Lamothe, in an email. They face arrest if they don’t comply, Succar added.
An assistant for Minister of Environment Jean Vilmond Hilaire said the minister wasn’t available to answer questions.
Bag seller Ovinthe Aristide said he hopes to sell his remaining plastic bags before authorities crack down.