Governor signs “Polystyrene Foam Container Ban” into law
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lemanu P.S. Mauga has signed the “Polystyrene Foam Container Ban” into law. The bill prohibits the import, sale and distribution of polystyrene foam containers in American Samoa and will take effect 60 days after the end of the current legislative session.
According to the bill’s preamble, polystyrene (sometimes referred to as Styrofoam) which is used “to make disposable plates, cups, bowls, trays and clamshell containers, contains a chemical used in the production process called “styrene” that has been linked to cancer, as well as reproductive and developmental disorders, by the National Research Council.
The amendments made by the House of Representatives and approved by the Senate require that prohibited Polystyrene foam products imported for commercial sale prior to the effective date of this Act, shall be sold within 6 months of the effective date of the bill. All unsold products shall be subject to confiscation and the cost of its disposal shall be paid by the importer or shipper.
The House also amended the penalties for the violation of any provision of the Act.
• First Offense: $300 - $500
• Second Offense: $500 - $1,000
• Third Offense: $1,000 - $2,000
• Subsequent Offenses: $2,000 - $5,000
American Samoa now joins several Pacific Island nations with polystyrene foam container bans including Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Samoa and Vanuatu.
In recent years, there has been a global movement to reduce or phase out polystyrene foam products along with single-use plastics. Polystyrene foam products contain the harmful chemicals benzene and styrene, which are linked to cancer. Non-biodegradable and difficult to recycle, these foam products clog landfills and pollute our oceans. As bans gradually take hold across the globe, viable alternatives to polystyrene foam products are beginning to emerge on the world markets.
Under the bill, the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) is responsible for administration of the local ban. This includes public outreach, enforcement, and the promulgation of administrative regulations. The law will become part of the American Samoa Code Annotated (A.S.C.A.), Title 25, under a new Chapter 23.
“This ban represents a bold step in the Territory’s ongoing efforts to improve public health and reduce waste streams damaging to our natural resources,” said Governor Lemanu. “It also reaffirms our commitment to the Pacific regional priorities of safeguarding our environment and promoting sustainable practices,” Lemanu stated after signing the bill into law on Feb. 6.
“We are grateful for the passage of this key environmental legislation,” said ASEPA Director Lefega Faamao Asalele. “ASEPA is committed to working with the public, our partner agencies, and especially the local business community to implement this new law,” he said.
Importers will have six (6) months from the effective date of the law to sell their existing inventory.
Hardship exemptions must be applied for in writing.
To aid in the Territory’s transition from polystyrene foam containers to alternative products, the law provides for a one-year excise tax reduction, temporarily reduced from eight percent (8%) to four percent (4%), specifically for approved polystyrene foam alternatives.
ASEPA is in the process of promulgating regulations and guidelines for the polystyrene foam container ban. For further information, please contact ASEPA at 684-633-2304.
[Samoa News staff contributed background to this story]