The minister charged with protecting the seas around Barbados is adamant that affordable alternatives to single use plastics are available as a ban came into effect today.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey stressed that the cost of biodegradable alternatives should be weighed against the cost of continued plastics on the marine environment and the industries that depend on it, including fishing and tourism.
“We have to make a real comparison to weigh the true cost. The cost is not necessarily between the cost of a polystyrene cup and the cost of a biodegradable cup, but the cost really is the cost to clean-up Barbados; protect our coral; save our fish and save our own health,” Humphrey said.
He was speaking to reporters over the weekend at Sheraton Centre Mall during a tour as part of his ministry’s No Plastics, No Problem campaign ahead of the April 1 import ban.
“It has been found that there are a lot of micro plastics in the things that we consume. Those are the real costs,” he said.
Humphrey refuted claims from some individuals that there were no alternatives on the island.
He said: “There are alternatives on the island that are bio-based, that is, when they are disposed of, they will go back to their natural state.”
The Minister said a number of businesses and nongovernmental organisations were committed to making Barbados a healthier place to live and protecting the island’s ecosystems and marine life.
But he warned that the ban on single use plastics should not be seen as an excuse to throw garbage through car windows because the alternative products will return to their natural state when disposed.
“I need to address the idea that because we are now importing biodegradable products that people could just litter indiscriminately across Barbados; that it is ok to throw a plastic bag out through your car window, or it is ok to take your Styrofoam or polystyrene plate and just throw it out.
That is not right.
“Even though we are trying to save the environment so that those things biodegrade, we want people to change their behavior as well,” Humphrey said.
Anti-littering legislation is on its way, the Minister promised, while saying he was opposed to governing all behaviour by law.
Last week, both the House of Assembly and the Senate passed the Control of Disposable Plastics Act, which imposes heavy fines on those who defied the ban which came into effect today.
From today, April 1, the importation of petroleum-based plastics and polystyrene foam, also known as Styrofoam, is banned, to be followed by a July 1 ban on the retail, use and wholesale of the products.
Individuals caught importing, selling or using the products may be fined up to $50,000, or serve one year in prison, or both.