22-year-old capitalises on plastic ban

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WHEN 22-year-old student and entrepreneur Angelica Dempster heard in 2018 that the Government would impose a ban on single-use plastic bags, straws and polystyrene, she was excited.

Excited not only because Jamaica would be taking a major step to help with the preservation of the environment, but also because she saw an opportunity to start her own business, ‘The Likkle Bamboo Hut’, through which she now sells bamboo straws, reusable bags and calabash bowls.

“On January 1, 2019, the Government implemented a ban on single-use plastic straws and bags. I decided to assist the Government and my community [and] to better transition citizens for the plastic ban, by making and selling reusable cloth bags and bamboo straws,” Dempster tells JIS News.

Dempster says the idea came to mind when she was involved in a club activity, and mention was made of the ban.

Now, months after making her bamboo straws, cloth bags and calabash bowls, she has no regrets.

“The performance of The Likkle Bamboo Hut has been absolutely amazing. I never, in my life, thought that selling bamboo straws would be a source of income and could maintain a livelihood. I am satisfied, because the business has been growing at an unexpected rate and we will have to go regional to serve the demand for our products,” Dempster, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the University of Technology (UTech), says.

Like every entrepreneur, she faces challenges with the operations of her business, but with constant encouragement and support from numerous institutions, from both the public and the private sectors, she is achieving her goals.

“We take care in assuring the quality and standards of our products by working with the Special Projects Department of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, and the straws are made from locally grown bamboo, which we source all over the island,” Dempster tells JIS News.

“I have no actual business location at the moment; I have received a temporary space at the Bamboo Industry Association of Jamaica at 5 Stanton Terrace to operate and store my products. I started off at a workshop on Molynes Road before moving the production aspect of my operations to my hometown in Mandeville. It gets overwhelming sometimes, but I can always count on family to assist,” she adds.

When asked if becoming an entrepreneur was always her dream, Dempster says no, adding that it was less than a year ago that she realised entrepreneurship was for her, after posting an advertisement on the social media website, Twitter with her bamboo straws, and receiving overwhelming responses.

Dempster says the responses she received and knowing that the products she creates can impact the lives of many people and the environment, is enough motivation for her to continue.

She tells JIS News that she has derived five benefits from becoming an entrepreneur, namely, a source of income, improved network of professionals, exposure to a variety of cultures and lifestyles, better time management skills, and an improved understanding of the production and management aspects of the bamboo business.

In September 2018, the Government announced the ban on single-use plastic bags, straws and polystyrene, which also includes the importation, manufacture and distribution of the materials.

The plastic bags that are now banned are those with dimensions of 24 inches by 24 inches or less — those commonly referred to as ‘scandal bags’.

Bags that are essential for packaging and maintaining public health or food safety standards are not banned. This applies to plastics used to package raw meat, flour, sugar, rice and baked goods, such as bread.

In some instances, the use of plastic bags is allowed. However, manufacturer will have to apply to the National Environment and Planning Agency for exemptions.

The polystyrene ban applies to products that are used as food and beverage containers. Regarding drinking straws, the ban will not apply to those that are used in medical facilities like hospitals or care homes for patients, and citizens are being encouraged to use paper straws as substitutes.

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