Ten days into Government’s ban on single-use plastics, Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland is expressing serious concern with some of the replacement products coming into Barbados.
This morning Sutherland revealed that the Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI) has discovered that a number of the replacement bio-degradable products currently imported have tested positive for high-levels of fluorine.
While acknowledging there was no need for alarm, he said his ministry will meet on Friday to come up with a strategy to weed out these products and also to set standards for containers coming into the country.
“We would have banned the use of single use plastics and we are indeed going in the right direction but our replacement products, when we examined them through our Barbados National Standards Institution and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, it was recognized that some of the bio-degradable replacement products have high levels of fluorine,” Sutherland told reporters this morning.
He noted that while there is no immediate danger, prolonged usage can have the same adverse effects to the environment, as the now banned single-use plastics. Sutherland explained that the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) was devising regional standards for all imported biodegradable products.
“CROSQ is developing a standard as it relates to these bio-degradable products and I want to compliment them because we can’t just say we are banning plastics and our replacement bio-degradable products have high levels of fluorine, which in effect, poses the same danger as the single-use plastics,” he said.
Minister Sutherland added, “At the end of the day we have to ensure that while we enable businesses, we have to do a lot more public relations and sensitization. We also have to safeguard against the products that are coming into this country and ensure that they are of the highest standards.”
Fluorine is widely used in non-stick, stain-resistant, and waterproof consumer products because of the hydrophobic (water-resistant) and lipophobic (grease rejection) properties. Their characteristic carbon−fluorine bonds make them extremely resistant to degradation, even at high temperatures. According to the European Consumer Organisation, products made from the chemical persist in the environment, and some accumulate in the body. The suspected impact on human health ranges from an increased risk of miscarriage to a negative influence on the immune system.
As a part of the movement towards a green economy and having a plastic-free Barbados by 2020, Government instituted a ban on single-use plastics from July 1. These are items made of plastic or polystyrene. The items which have been banned include cups; plates, cutlery, straws, egg trays, and styrofoam containers used largely in the culinary retail industry.
Minister Sutherland said that the development, which only came to his attention in the last 48 hours, was by no means an indictment on the Government’s haste to cut out single-use plastics.
“We can’t renege on what we as a Government did in banning the use of single-use plastics because it is beneficial to our economy. It has also enhanced Barbados’s competitiveness internationally. So, it is a good move on the part of our Government, and I applaud it,” he said.
He further noted, “I don’t want to go to the point of saying that we moved too swiftly because we had to move swiftly, but while we move swiftly, we have to ensure that we have high-quality replacement products.” [email protected]