Young Person Selling Bags of Treated Water
LEOGANE, Haiti (defend.ht) – Several dozen protesters took to the streets on Tuesday after the arrest of two delivery drivers of Jus Alaska, a seller of drinking water in plastic bags. The two drivers were arrested for delivering the water because of a presidential decree prohibiting the “manufacture, importation, marketing and use of polyethylene (plastic) bags” in Haiti.
On August 10th the Communications Office of the Prime Minister published a press note informing the general public of the publication of an order “prohibiting the manufacture, importation, marketing and use of polyethylene bags.” The reasons for the order was said to “sound an alarm to citizens throughout the territory to assist in protecting the environment that is deteriorating steadily.”
The public has sent complaints of the new provision. Directors of companies argue that no consultations were taken with concerned parties to find other solutions to the garbage problem.
Police officers working on information of the order arrested two drivers delivering Jus Alaska drinking water, which is sold in polyethylene bags; Polyethylene terephthalate, PET, PETE, Plastic Identification Code (PIC) number one, is the most recyclable of plastic materials.
Maxime Dessous told journalists he was delivering water to a client when a police patrol vehicle pulled up next to his truck. The officers asked him for identification and told him to accompany them to the Canape Vert Police Department. Dessous says after 30 minutes in the police department another driver, Jean Florence Thermeus, had also came in under police custody.
The police told the drivers about the prohibition on plastic bags but both drivers said they had never heard of the law. Thermeus estimates President Martelly is taking actions in the way the former Dictator, President-for-Life, Duvalier used to.
The Director of the Water Treatment Society S.A. Alex Zamor said if the law against plastics is enforced there will be thousands who will lose their jobs.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t understand anything. For a measure like this, the Society for the Treatment of Water, we would have expected, if a measure like this was going to be taken, they would send a letter to us, they would give us notice that at such and such date, you no longer have the right to sell water. But, like I’m telling you, one morning like this you wake up, the drivers take the streets to go work and have to defend their interests…”
“Plastics bags littering the streets, I understand, this is a problem but getting treated water to the population so it can drink, so it can avoid getting sick… what we must do is find a means so that the bags can be recycled.”
“They can pick up the bags, recycle the bags and turn it into something else. We can make garbage bags with them, we can make bigger bags to pick up trash with them, we can make broomsticks with them, there are many things we can do with them… If the State would sit with us and work with us to pick up the bags that would be better because the problem is not making the bags.”
“We here at the society, for at least a year we’ve talked about creating a recycling society for these plastic bags that are on the streets. We spoke to all the instances in this government about it and it’s like it went into one ear and out the other. No one listened no said here’s the help we could give you.”
Subsequently protests broke out in the town of Leogane against the government. Workers of Jus Alaska took the streets and chanted “we don’t want motorcycles, give us our Alaska”, in reference to the president’s gift of 100 motorcycles financed by the World Bank earlier in 2012.
Zamor estimates that there are 15 to 20,000 people who earn a living by selling beverages in plastic bags and that stopping the sales would be more damaging to the economy than finding a way to clean it up.
The Haitian government said the law is not supposed to be enforced until October 1st and that it should apply to only black plastic bags that are not recyclable.
DH has done some research and discovered that the color of the bags are independent of their ability to be recycled. Plastic bags are the most commonly recycled and reused plastics.
A proper solution to this type of garbage would be to assess a modest tariff on companies that import large units of items wrapped in plastic. This revenue should then be used to construct recycling and refining plants that pay people to collect the garbage and charge companies like the Water Treatment Society a competitive rate to by the Recycled in Haiti products.