The pending ban of styrofoam and single-use plastics may give rise to food price extortion, Minister for the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey has warned, urging consumers to boycott food vendors who raise prices sharply.
He told Barbados Labour Party (BLP) St Michael South branch at the Graydon Sealy School at The Garrison, that the Government’s phased ban on plastics starting on April 1st has already seen some vendors speculating that their prices would have to be increased although an environmentally-friendly replacement utensil costs about 30 cents more.
The first phase will end the trade in single-use, petroleum-based plastic cups, straws, cutlery, stirrers, plates, egg trays, and Styrofoam containers used in the food retail industry.
Humphrey said: “For all the things that we’re banning there are already on-island replacements that are either compostable fully, or bio-degradable fully.”
But the minister said some vendors have indicated they intend to hike meal prices considerably because having to switch to biodegradable containers is costly. He also noted other vendors have said the cost of the replacement items amounts to no more than a 30 cents’ impact on the cost of a meal.
Humphrey told constituents: “Let us say your containers gone up by 50 cents, how your food could go up by two dollars?
“People looking for every opportunity now to gouge out people’s eyes.
“If you see that your food price has gone up in a way that doesn’t reflect the cost of the container then go and shop with somebody else, and eventually those prices will come right back down.”
The maritime affairs minister said the increased food prices are minimal “compared to the cost that we have to endure as a Government and as a country for dealing with the clean-up of styrofoam”.
“Even if it might be a little bit inconvenient, do it for your country because we only have at the end of the day one Barbados,” he said.
The second phase of the ban on single-use plastics will end the issue of grocery bags from next year.
Said Humphrey: “We are not banning plastics that are used at the end of a manufacturing process. The bags you got the bread and so on, we’re not banning those, [and] pharmaceuticals, medicines . . . We’re not banning styrofoam associated with packaging for now, only the styrofoam that you would get when you go to the food vendor.”
“It is just to get rid of those empty plastic bags that end up on the street,” blocking drains and eventually washing into the sea but not disintegrating for perhaps thousands of years.
“But you can still use biodegradable bags . . . hopefully in a very short time the bags will disintegrate, not into smaller plastics but into something organic that goes back into the earth and does no harm.”