The ban on single-use plastics and Styrofoam containers within the next six months in a bid to protect the island’s environment could result in food vendors hiking their prices, as they claim the biodegradable alternatives will prove more expensive.
In interviews with Barbados TODAY, food vendors have described the ban, to take place from next April 1 as “ a double-edged sword” that will strike a harsh blow to small food service industry operators and make meals more costly to consumers.
“You are encouraging people to go forward with entrepreneurship and then you hit them with this; what are they to do?” the vendor queried.
“The mindset of your customers is far different; they would go to Chefette and pay x amount… and when they come to a small food van they have this concept in their heads, ‘I want a $10 food’, and quite frankly, a $10 is no longer in a big container,” the food vendor, who did not want to be identified, continued.
Despite declaring she understood “the need to protect the environment, the vendor predicted that a number of small businesses similar to her own would be thrown out of business when the ban takes effect.”
“The other alternative is so expensive. As it stands food prices are so ridiculous; it is not to say that we as small business people have the resources to go to big companies and buy in bulk; we go to the supermarket and pay full price,” she said.
“To do away with Styrofoam – it is extremely expensive and I don’t know how we are going to do it.”
Having operated her food van for a number of years in Bridgetown, the vendor stressed that as the price of food and utilities increased and the prohibition on Styrofoam forced her to buy alternative containers which, she claimed, would be three times more expensive, she would ultimately have to raise prices.
“I take into consideration my customer base and their salaries aren’t big so I try to tweak my process accordingly so that they are appreciative. Now I am going to have to [increase prices] now that water has gone up, gas has gone up, electricity, everything has gone up so this doing away with [plastics and Styrofoam] is going to be impossible.”
The vendor said she wished Government would discuss the embargo with micro-businesses before finalizing its plans.
Stacey Blackman, sales associate for the Gap Burgers food truck in Harbour Road, St Michael, said she recognized the importance of the bold move made by Government to protect and preserve the environment but stressed that the move would make money ‘tight’ all around.
“If we have to get the alternatives, the food prices will have to go up and when food prices go up, people don’t really want to spend. It will become difficult for us because then staff would have to be let go or we would have to find a new location,” Blackman explained, while noting that operating the business had become costly as they battled food prices and consumers’ budgets.
Business and development manager at container importer Simplex Trading, Hilary Hunte, backed the food vendors who operated from trucks and vans who she said would feel the weight of the prohibition of plastics.
“You have the smaller food vendor vans that will feel it more because they are looking at cost all the time so when it comes to purchasing the eco-friendly items they are going to be paying at least three times the price,” Hunte told Barbados TODAY.
Operators were already returning their stock of Styrofoam containers and switching to sustainable alternatives, she revealed.
The general manager of plastics firm Barbados Packaging, Roderick Roach, suggested that given the ban of single use plastics, Government should relax tariffs on the importation of biodegradable products to encourage individuals to buy the containers.
“It is just like electric cars; to me, there should be a reduction on whatever duties are in place now to encourage greater use of electric cars,” Roach indicated.