The Council of Ministers decided on the ban at its meeting in December and it has agreed to several first steps in the management of marine litter.
Starting 31 January, 2018, there will be a ban on the importation of single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags and polystyrene takeaway boxes.
Local manufacturers of plastic bags can only use biodegradable plastics beginning on 31 January, 2018.
The government will also review and provide a new method for disposal of plastic bottle waste beginning on 31 January, 2018.
Companies will be given a grace period of six months to use up their current stock of single-use plastics and polystyrene takeaway boxes, expiring on 30 June, 2018.
The government will also enact a Regulation under the Waste Management Act to implement these changes by the end of January 2018.
The Government will support other alternatives to plastics such as traditional baskets.
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is responsible for the Ocean’s Policy said the decision to implement a ban was based on the outcome of field study reports done by environmental marine coastal groups working jointly with the Department of Environment on areas around Efate which discovered that a considerable amount of different forms of plastic waste have already entered our oceans.
Plastic waste in the ocean is referred to as marine litter.
This year, Government will be taking a number of important steps to manage the issue of marine litter and it sincerely hopes that business houses, local authorities and the general public will assist the Government in keeping our oceans healthy and clean.
In the coming months, the Government through the Oceans Policy Management Sub-Committee under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade will be announcing and implementing additional steps aimed at further reducing marine litter.
The Government of Vanuatu is the first country in the Pacific to establish a National Oceans Policy with the aim of better managing our ocean and resources for present and future generations.
In addition, Vanuatu has already committed to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030 which is to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.