Days after a revelation that plastic replacement containers have tested positive for high levels of a potentially dangerous chemical, officials in the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy are yet to respond.
But a longtime distributor of plastic products has broken his silence, claiming numerous attempts to alert authorities of cheaper and more hygienic alternatives were continuously ignored.
The well-known businessman, who requested anonymity, told Barbados TODAY of a degradable and biodegradable plastic product called D2W, which allows plastics to break down to nothing and break down with “no toxic residue at all”.
“All of this information I have shown the Minister and I have explained it to him… I am saying to them there is an alternative to every single thing that is coming in. It is a cheaper alternative, a more hygienic alternative, but the Minister is adamant that he does not want any petro-based products,” the businessman complained.
He pointed to countries like Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, which had embraced the alternative products, stressing he was willing to engage Government on the way forward.
On Wednesday, just ten days into Government’s ban on single-use plastics, news emerged that some of the replacement products coming into Barbados tested positive for high levels of fluorine, which, according to the European Consumer Organisation is suspected of having a negative impact on the immune system and increases the risk of miscarriages.
But Barbados TODAY research also suggests the products are also extremely resistant to degradation, even at high temperatures.
“The country should really be going to degradable products that break down to nothing, but they are not listening,” the businessman argued.
“I am all for the ban and for making sure plastic products disappear and don’t end up in the sea, but we can’t just say single-use plastics, because bottles are plastic, detergents and disinfectants are all plastics and probably will end up in the sea if we don’t improve our public awareness campaigns.”
The businessman shared correspondence sent to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy with reports on the safety and effectiveness of the D2W technology along with a legal opinion from a UK-based attorney on the technology’s safety.
The reports also indicated the technology required no new machinery or workforce retraining and was awarded an internationally-recognised eco-label.
While Symphony Environmental, the company which produces D2W has successfully entered the Middle Eastern and African markets, the European Union’s Commission is yet to be convinced.
When the issue was raised at a Town Hall meeting on the ban on single-use plastic in April this year, Minister Humphrey shot down the suggestion, arguing the countries that accepted the alternative had a vested interest in retaining petro-based products.
Amid hundreds of thousands of dollars reportedly lost because of the ban, the businessman said he and other distribution companies remain disappointed in the level of engagement from Government on the issue.
“If the Minister wanted to have a ban, he should have brought all the players on board, people that were in this thing for a long time and take information, go back to the drawing board and analyse the information.
“We all want the best for the country; we all want to make sure there is no litter on the street. But we have to do it the right way. We just can’t jump one morning and make a statement in September that you are going to ban plastics at the beginning of January when we’re heading into the hype of Christmas,” he complained, adding that many business people remain confused about exactly which products are banned.
“We wanted the Minister to send us a list of things being banned, but up to now there is no list. So every now and again we are hearing that plastic bags are banned but no they are not banned. Food bags are banned and then they aren’t banned again and these are the kind of things that we’re going through,” he said. [email protected]