As of May 1 next year, shoppers here will be required to pay 20 cents per plastic bag at some of the island’s leading supermarkets and retail stores.
The move, spearheaded by ice-cream manufacturer BICO Limited and the Future Centre Trust, is an effort to reduce the heavy use of plastic bags, believed to be in excess of 100 million annually.
Making the announcement this morning at a media conference at BICO’s Harbour Road, St Michael headquarters, Public Relations Officer of the Future Centre Trust Kammie Holder said if left to him, customers would be charged even more than the 20 cents per plastic bag.
He also said it was time Barbadians stopped asking, “why not the Government?”, and began asking themselves: “Why not us?”
“It is time enough, in this year of our jubilee, that we ask what we can do for our country,” Holder said.
“We have the major supermarkets on board and we are convinced that the smaller ones will follow. So once we have the major guys . . . we know that this will catch on. This is a movement and there is no going back on this. We are going forward. As a matter of fact, if I had my way, it would be $1 per bag because it has to be a disincentive – sharp, shocking and to the point. No excuses!”.
He said so far Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss has backed the initiative, as have major umbrella bodies, including the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association and the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
However, one senior official in the Freundel Stuart administration today made it clear that Government was not involved in the initiative at this stage, even though he acknowledged that under the new waste disposal management legislation, which is still at the drafting stage, the Ministry of the Environment would be looking to better control the use of plastic bags and other materials deemed harmful to the environment.
Recently, the United Kingdom government implemented a five pence charge on plastic bags while the Jamaica Senate approved a ban on the product. Following the UK’s move in October 2015, authorities there have reported a significant drop in the number of plastic bags being used within the first six months, and are projecting a drop of about 83 per cent if the trend continues over the year.
General Manager of BICO Jo-Anne Pooler told reporters today that attaching a 20 cent charge to plastic bags here was “a start to something quite marvellous for Barbados”, adding that the private sector-led initiative should yield similar results to those in the UK.
“We managed to get together a large group of retail organizations, supermarkets, hardware stores, department stores, to come together and agree to charging 20 cents per single use plastic bags in an attempt to make people think before they take a plastic bag, and start using reusable bags or taking back the same bag to the supermarket,” she explained.
Pooler, who is happy with the reaction from the private sector so far, said following the upcoming Christmas season officials would embark on an aggressive public education campaign to help residents adapt to the desired change.
The BICO executive said retailers have committed to selling reusable bags at “a reasonable cost” without making a profit on them. She said so far “ten people are all fully committed to the process and are fully committed to the start date of May 1, 2017”.
Pointing to some of the dangers plastic bags had on the environment and human and animal development, Holder said he was still mindful of those who manufactured the product, but quickly added that there were new opportunities that could be created.
“What this also creates is opportunities for cottage industries . . . some persons who are entrepreneurial can start making these shopping bags. What we must also look at is what cost savings there will be for the country because we are importing millions of dollars a years in plastic bags,” said Holder.
“We are not insensitive to the needs of those persons who manufacturer plastic bags or import them. We have had discussions with those persons and they said to us, they saw it coming. So don’t try to think that we are trying to put any person out of business. We have had discussions with the manufacturers as well as the importers. So we are very wholesome in our approach to this initiative,” Holder said.