A top official in the hospitality sector said she was embarrassed over the high level of plastic and styrofoam used in Barbados, in particular the amount that’s imported to satisfy tourism needs.
Chairperson of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA) Roseanne Myers has therefore called on local tourism players to take the lead in reducing the current intake, saying, “We believe that if we implement within our businesses then we can then say to other private sector agencies, ‘follow our lead’.
“Let us not wait on anyone to enact legislation for the things that we know we need to do,” she added, while strongly urging her members to sign on to the BHTA’s environment charter.
Painting a worrying picture of the impact of plastics on the economy as a whole, Chairman of the BHTA’s Environmental Committee André Miller warned that plastic bags stood to wipe out the snorkelling industry here.
The diving instructor said too often turtles and fish were caught in plastic bags and died.
He also pointed out that plastic bags and styrofoam containers, when not correctly disposed of, were often responsible for gathering water that could lead to a range of illnesses, including the dreaded Zika and Chikungunya viruses.
Officially launching the charter, which required between 50 and 100 signatures, Miller said it was time hoteliers took the lead in encouraging Barbadians to “do better”.
“From 1996 we have been doing beach and underwater cleanups. Back then we did one year maybe 100 pounds [of garbage]. Now we do several [cleanups] a year and get thousands of pounds of garbage, mostly plastics, styrofoam, straws – non-biodegradable materials,” he said.
“We have removed tonnes of plastics from our marine environment. Most of you will not see it, but I am telling you it is one of the most painful things to go diving, and there is no dive site, there is no beach in Barbados that I can go to and put on a mask and dive and not come out with a bunch of these in every part of my island, even in St John,” Miller said.
“We have to do better guys,” he pleaded.
“If we don’t have fish we don’t have corals, if we don’t have coral reefs we don’t have beaches. If we have no beaches none of us in here has a job. We have to start leading the way and not just say the Government is going to do something about this,” he stressed.
It is estimated that the country imports in excess of 100 million plastic bags annually.
Miller said he was aware that about ten 40-foot containers came to the island each month with styrofoam and plastic.
“I want you not only just say, ‘I sign the charter, my job is done’. This is just the start,” he told tourism stakeholders.
Last month, ice-cream manufacturer BICO Ltd and the Future Centre Trust announced plans to introduce a 20 cents charge on plastic bags by May next year. This is to be implemented at participating supermarkets and retail stores as a means of deterring the heavy use of plastic.