An environmental scientist has spoken out against the way in which the Future Centre Trust is seeking to implement a 15-cent “deterrent fee” on plastic bags at supermarkets and retail outlets across the island.
The fee, which has already had two rollout delays, is scheduled to take effect sometime next month. It was last November when officials from the Trust and BICO announced the initiative aimed at reducing the number of plastic bags that enter the landfill and waste streams.
However, Dr Ariana Marshall is concerned about the transparency of the initiative, arguing that Barbadians were being asked to carry a further financial burden in dire economic times, without being told how the monies collected would be spent.
“If we are going to implement that fee for plastic bags, we need to be very clear what the fee is being used for. I think it is a burden on the Barbadian people to have to pay a plastic bag fee,” Marshall said this morning at the Deacons Development Facility in Deacons Farm, St Michael where Better Caribbean and the St Michael North West Constituency Council launched of a joint recycling programme.
She also contended that some of the reusable bags being touted as alternatives were not necessarily better for the environment. For example, she said, paper bags contain dyes that seep into the earth, while some wool bags have to be replaced far too frequently.
Conceding that “it is also a burden for sea turtles to be entangled in plastic, as there is actually a dollar value on that as it relates to our tourism sector”, Marshall added: “There are fees both ways, but the plastic bag fee directly burdens Barbadians without a proper explanation. If we had said that a particular supermarket was charging a fee and it was going directly to clean up a particular beach or sponsor a programme at a school, then Bajan people would be more amenable to it and we wouldn’t have all of the issues with it.”
The scientist added she was not convinced the option of educating retailers and consumers had been fully exhausted, stating it was unrealistic to expect change overnight.
“It was said that the industry was spoken to for a while about this. . . . It takes a lot of work to change industry practices. You don’t just get up one morning and tell someone to change an industry; it doesn’t matter how many worldwide opportunities there are. That is why I don’t like the idea of just handing down a fee and demanding that everyone pays it, because it makes people more determined to resist the ideas put forward by environmentalists,” Marshall stressed.
The Better Caribbean director also accused the supermarkets of trying to have it both ways, as they were charging for the plastic bags while at the same time selling the reusable bags.
Marshall insisted that in order to truly effect change, supermarkets should assume more corporate responsibility and provide consumers with reusable bags free of cost.