Further to our legal update on 24 May 2019 on the ban on use of plastic carrier bags, the Vice President’s Office (the “VPO”) has issued guidelines to all Government Councils in respect of how inspectors and enforcement officers (the “Enforcement Officers”) who are tasked with enforcing/implementing the plastic bags ban should undertake their duties (the “Guidelines”).
The Guidelines stipulate that from 01 June 2019, inspections will be conducted at shops, kiosks, markets, supermarkets, warehouses, border entry points, industries and at all places where goods are sold. During the inspection exercise, the Enforcement Officers are required to have in their possession and show their identification cards whilst conducting the inspections.
The Guidelines prohibit the Enforcement Officers from stopping and searching any person or their belongings; entering into residential dwellings and buildings; or stopping and searching motor vehicles or any other means of transportation for the purpose of inspecting whether they are carrying/in possession of plastic bags. However, the Guidelines provide that in instances where motor vehicles or other means of transportation are stopped for other reasons/offences and are found with plastic bags, the prescribed penalties will be imposed on the responsible person(s) and they will be directed where to dispose of such plastic bags.
The Guidelines provide that any person who is found selling, storing, or using prohibited plastic bags will be fined and directed to a prescribed place to dispose of them, after which they will be required to sign a form agreeing to pay a fine and which must be paid within a specified period. Where a person refuses to sign the form or fails to pay the fine within the specified period, that person may be prosecuted in accordance with the Environment Management (Prohibition of Plastic Carrier Bags) Regulations 2019 and any other relevant laws. Take note that government receipts will be issued for each payment of fine(s) and should be requested where a fine is paid.
The VPO has stated that prudence should be employed in the enforcement of the prohibition and unreasonable use of force by the Enforcement Officers such as: harassing; manhandling; and jailing of offenders is not permitted. A person who refuses to cooperate during the inspection exercise and/or contravenes the regulations prohibiting the use of plastic bags and/or continues to commit an offence after being fined, may be arrested and appropriate steps be taken against him/her in accordance with the laws.