A landmark announcement was made today without much fanfare, but its impact is a big plus for Barbados, today and tomorrow.
Government will ban the single use of plastics and styrofoam on April 1, 2019.
The decision couldn’t have come sooner for this small island development state staring the impact of climate change in the face.
The revelation came this evening via Facebook by Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey in a brief post.
“After weeks of meetings and deliberations we are in a position to announced a ban on the import and retails of most Styrofoam and many single use plastics.
“Barbados must become a circular economy and take waste out the system and recycle the plastic that we are unable to completely keep out for now,” he said.
Environmentalists and all citizens who value this island gem should be smiling.
Interestingly, the announcement came days after two of our Caribbean neighbours also took the bold step to preserve their environment.
First, Jamaica announced that it was imposing a ban on the importation, manufacture, distribution and use of single use plastic bags, Styrofoam and plastic drinking straws effective January 1.
Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Daryl Vaz announced that the restriction was necessary because “Jamaica is literally inundated with all types of plastic”.
Over in Grenada, a ban on the importation of styrofoam under the island’s far reaching Non-Biodegradable Waste Control Act took effect.
Grenada’s minister for the environment Simon Stiell said the move was aimed at “reducing the negative environmental impacts and improve the health of Grenadians”.
Thankfully, the Caribbean, like their more development partners have come to realize the dangerous impact of plastic.
Since 2012 Haiti banned the importation, marketing and sale of plastic products by presidential decree, Guyana followed suit in 2016 and Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the United States Virgin Islands have taken action to cut down the widespread use of plastic.
All for a good cause.
Of course Barbados started the ball rolling recently when supermarkets and outlets began charging customers for the use of plastic bags while offering reusable bags to cut down on the use of plastic bags.
The April 2019 ban is intended not to be mere copycats, but to demonstrate that we seriously want to protect and preserve our beautiful island for generations to come.
Our love affair with plastic has become ingrained.
In a report issued back in March, the United Nations Environment Programme estimated that the world consumes up to five trillion plastic bags, mostly made of polythene, the low-cost polymer derived from petroleum, which takes at least 500 years to degrade – let’s just call that forever.
UN Environment added that only nine per cent of all plastic waste is recycled.
Here in Barbados we have all the evidence: plastics pollute our streets, burden waste collection, clog our drainage system and fill our landfill and then take centuries to decompose, if at all. And we make our own contribution to the tonnes of plastic choking our marine life.
Indeed, plastic bags, styrofoam, plastic forks and straws have for decades been magically convenient but we are paying dearly every time we dispose them.
Scientists estimate that it takes 500 to 1000 years to breakdown and even when it does, the plastic persists as smaller particles that get into the food chain; let’s call it forever.
Sobering news indeed that urges us reduce to dependency on plastic.
Our plastic habit causes environmental pollution and so it only makes sense to start using measures to shift to safer replacements like paper bags, cloth bags, cardboard boxes or biodegradable food containers.
Better yet, as the Jamaican Industry Minister Audley Shaw has suggested, the quest for alternatives presents a fine opportunity for farmers and entrepreneurs to partner and create new products including biodegradable bags, cups and plates from cassava, palm leaves, banana leaves, sugar cane, bamboo and coconut fibre, just to name a few.
Changing behaviour isn’t easy, but most times it’s necessary.
Our relentless use of plastic does us no good and it’s high time we’d begin to eliminate this blight on our environment.
Consumers will come to realize that they can do without plastic. Our children will thank us for it.
For now, we thank the authorities for joining the panoply of nations large and small in this important step in the name of future generations.
Plastics are forever. Now is the time to release this stranglehold on our island home.