Barbadians purchasing takeout food from establishments across the country could face higher prices for food served in “flimsy” containers, if Government refuses to rethink the proposed ban on single-use plastics.
While many food sellers are thankful for the extra time to work through the stock of the environmentally harmful styrofoam containers, they are complaining that the alternative products are too expensive and the quality leaves much to be desired.
They were responding to the ban on the importation of the plastics, which took effect on April 1 despite Government’s decision to extend the deadline for the overall ban of the products to allow for the exhausting of current stock.
Over the weekend, a video making the rounds on social media showed the popular Barbadian delicacy, pudding and souse dripping out of a soggy environmentally-friendly food container.
“This is not even a hot food, this is cold souse and the water is dripping out of it and these cost over 40 dollars,” complained an unidentified vendor.
Food vendors operating at various spots on the island have confirmed that the incident was not isolated.
“I want to know if these ministers are going to eat out of these containers?” one vendor asked.
Others have vowed to defy the ban and accept the fine if better alternatives were not offered.
One patron of a deli in the north of the island said she had to return to the counter on Saturday after paying for a meal of coucou because at the cashier, the container started to disintegrate.
“The container got very soft in the plastic bag and I went back to the deli and they resorted to serving the meal in two styrofoam soup containers,” she added.
At popular west coast sports bar, Wendy’s, owner John Simpson freely aired his frustration with the quality offered by wholesalers, contending that Government had not “done its homework”.
“The biggest problem for me is the soup containers, because the new containers actually burn your hand when you attempt to pick up the food. They’re despicable and they’re poor and if someone is burnt as a result of the heat, there will be a lawsuit against me,” Simpson predicted.
He added that if the food was left in the container after a while, the container’s material would eventually have to be separated from the food.
“You have to scrape the food off the bottom of the pan because the container gets soft and mushy,” said Simpson.
To make matters worse, Simpson said the new containers were considerably more expensive than styrofoam containers at a time when Barbadians were not spending as much as they once did.
“We’re going to try and absorb it, because if I increase my prices from $17 to $18 or $19, the customer doesn’t have to buy anymore, so we try to absorb the cost so that we can keep our clients,” he said.
Last Thursday, Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey revealed that vendors and retailers would have until July 1 to use their existing stock, while the ban on the importation of all petro-based plastic remained in effect.
Prior to that, Humphrey announced fines as high as $50,000 or a year’s imprisonment, or both, for importing, offering for sale, or using single-use plastics.
Making it clear that he would unswervingly comply with the stipulations, founder of Carlton and A1 Supermarkets, Andrew Bynoe conceded that all was not well with the new containers used in the supermarket’s delis.
“We have received some complaints from customers, because not all are meeting the standard. Some are a little soggy,” he said, while quickly adding, “but we’re in the teething stages right now and we’ll obviously determine the ones that are best suited.
“We are trying out more than one type and based on the results, we’ll make a decision as to which of them will be our standard,” said Bynoe.
He also vowed that the company would absorb as much of the cost as it could, admitting that the price has undoubtedly increased.
In Bridgetown, owner of the popular Swan Street-based Square Restaurant Anthony Corbin, said he had only recently started experimenting with the new containers, but said the restaurant did not experience any major problems.
“The only issue is that the price has increased by a significant percentage. So far I have not had problems with the food. I haven’t tried all of them, but the ones that I have tried so far are okay.
“I just do what I can and that is it. I am just doing my best and hope that everything works out. I can’t raise my price, because I am in Swan Street and they say that the Square Restaurant is very expensive already, so I have to work with what I have,” said Corbin. [email protected]