Supporters of eco-friendly products are dismissing a call from some packaging firms and vendors for more time to get rid of hundreds of thousands of dollars in Styrofoam and single use plastic bags ahead of the national ban on the importation and use of those products.
In fact, Executive Chairman of ice cream manufacturer BICO Edwin Thirlwell told Barbados TODAY he believed ample notice was given for local companies to put their house in order.
BICO introduced Vegware eco-friendly containers and utensils three years ago, in an effort to help ease the pressure on the island’s already overflowing landfill.
“Ample warning has been given for people to come and get their stocks. I don’t think there is any excuse for not knowing that they had to take steps to make other arrangements. So you obviously have people complaining who have huge stocks that they now can’t sell,” he said.
Last September Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey made the announcement on the ban of the products.
However, after meeting with several manufacturers, packaging companies and other commercial entities that import and use the items, those businesses say they wanted more time to get rid of the items they have on hand.
They explained that while they had no problem with the ban, they would like for the ban on imports to be implemented first and the ban on the use to come about a year later, which would give them more time to get rid of the hundreds of thousands of products they had.
Meanwhile, some food vendors told Barbados TODAY they feared the price of the alternatives to the styrofoam containers would be too high and they would be forced to increase food prices.
However, Thirlwell argued that Barbados was behind in implementing the ban and had to do something sooner rather than later.
“I think people felt it was one of those things that nothing would actually happen, but to everyone’s amazement it actually happened. The minister made it clear the banning was on the selling and use,” he said.
Thirlwell said he was aware of the concern regarding the pricing of the plant-based alternatives, adding that his company was trying to source cheaper products but this was something he had to be very careful about since often times “cheap things are not good”.
And despite increased competition from cheaper products on the market, Thirlwell said Vegware continued to perform well. However, he did not forecast any major improvement in sales, pointing out that “at the moment nobody has got any money”.
He argued that the country continued to suffer economically as it struggled to get rid of garbage pile up, which included a large amount of styrofoam and single-use bags.
“The writing was already on the wall that this was causing huge problems,” he said.
“Unfortunately it is not cheap to clean up and it never goes away. It is not a secret. Something had to be done but as usual people cry out,” he said, adding that he was “hoping somebody in the region will make a plant-based product that we can buy in the region that would be ideal.”
Owner and Managing Director of the newly-formed company Caribbean Ecoware Ltd Karen Meakins told Barbados TODAY she was ready to step up to the challenge of providing a viable alternative to styrofoam.
Meeakins said she believed six months was ample time for people to plan their business and source affordable and high quality alternatives.
“It is not a good idea for the government to extend the time for the ban. We need to start moving forward because of the damage that styrofoam and single-use plastic cause,” said Meakins
However, she warned that government should put measures in place to ensure that alternatives were affordable and of good quality, so that food vendors do not suffer.
“There has to be some sort of quality control. The government has to look into all of that and figure out how to regulate what comes in because it is like with anything you are going to get substandard products that are cheap and then you will get the better products. So it is down to government to have some sort of [policy] in place to be able to regulate what is going to come in,” she said.
Public Relations Officer of the Future Centre Trust Kammie Holder also welcomed the planned ban on import and use of the items, pointing out that since November last year over 20 countries had implemented a ban on the products.
“We are supporting the ban as it’s the right thing to do for our ocean floor which is littered with plastic forks, spoons, stirrers, cups, plates and styrofoam containers of all sorts,” he said.
“How many of those who are against the April 1, ban have coordinated a clean up, donated garbage cans or are willing to collectively buy a garbage truck? The implementation of the ban on April 1 doesn’t mean it’s an All Fool’s Day joke,” said Holder, adding that many were aware of the pending change and still went ahead and ordered “container loads” of products.
Pointing out that millions of dollars are used yearly to clear clogged drains, Holder said this could be “better spent on social services for the poor”.
“The environmental nipples of Barbados are indeed sore and are now in a pre-cancerous state. If we do not protect our environment who will?” he said.
However, Holder said Government should ensure that the duties on alternatives were “attractive to importers and manufacturers”.
“We must also demand and set high standards for alternatives as some unscrupulous importers will seek to import inferior quality at the expense of consumers’ health,” he said. [email protected]