Barbadians have a long, deep love affair with plastic bags, but there are rumblings of a divorce in the making, and the sooner the better.
Like any separation, it may be difficult at first but over the long term it could prove to be a wise decision.
At the height of ongoing debate about waste management in the country, comes a proposal from ice cream manufacturer BICO Limited and the Future Centre Trust to rid the island of a major source of waste – plastic bags.
They have teamed up with a large group of retail organizations – supermarkets, hardware stores, and department stores – to charge consumers 20 cents for each plastic bag they take, in a bid to convince more Barbadians to use reusable bags when they shop.
Public Relations Officer of the Future Centre Trust Kammie Holder told Wednesday’s launch: “We want to make it clear this is an environmental campaign with the goal of reducing the massive quantities of plastic bags that end up in landfills or as litter in our gullies, coastal areas and the ocean.”
According to Holder, Barbadians were using over 100 million plastic bags per year and he was hopeful the initiative could result in an 80 per cent reduction in that use, once the programme gets up and running by May as promised.
It’s an initiative that every right-thinking Barbadian interested in preserving the environment for now and future generations should support.
Admittedly, plastic bags are wonderfully convenient and currently free to shoppers but they come at too high a price. They block drains, choke our turtles and clog our already overburdened landfill.
This initiative could prove to be a significant start in helping Barbadians take greater responsibility for the waste they generate.
Shoppers’ inconvenience is a small price to pay for a cleaner environment.
We aver the move has the power to change behaviour and force consumers to think twice.
Still, for the scheme to get the buy-in of citizens and achieve its overall objective of eliminating plastic bags as much as possible, those spearheading the project would do well to remember that the devil is always in the details.
In the buildup to the May start, it is incumbent on all the key players involved to clearly outline how the initiative will work.
Following Wednesday’s launch, questions have already emerged.
On Barbados TODAY’s Facebook page, while consumers generally welcomed the initiative, some questioned whether the 20 cents charge would simply mean additional revenue for the businesses collecting the money or if the funds would be used to help finance another environmental project.
Consumers also asked whether it would result in a reduction in current prices, since stores would significantly benefit from purchasing fewer bags while at the same time collecting the 20 cents fee.
There was also the suggestion that the charge should not be limited to plastic bags, but applied to Styrofoam containers and other plastic packaging by the May startup date, to send a clear signal of a crackdown on the use of plastic.
Some readers also called for businesses to provide affordable reusable bags to consumers.
No doubt the questions and suggestions will keep coming, like ‘why 20 cents and not five cents per bag’ and ‘what will be the arrangements for persons doing bulk shopping’? However, the players should view this as a good start to the project and be fair and transparent as they engage citizens.
There is much that can and needs to be done at all levels of society – Government, businesses and individuals alike – to deal with the problem of waste.
This initiative is but one example and should pave the way for a new campaign to build a cleaner, more sustainable Barbados.
We can only hope that our Government will see it fit to get on board.