Government will not immediately ban the biodegradable alternatives to single-use plastics that have tested positive for higher than acceptable levels of fluorine, Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey has revealed.
Instead the Mia Mottley administration will continue to seriously monitor the development, while asking importers to help with the process of filtering any undesirable alternatives out of circulation.
“We had a meeting with the Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI), the Ministry of Health and we had a conversation on the way forward with respect to these containers. The truth is that there is no place in the world that handles polyfluoroalkyl (PFA) [Chemical
component of fluorine] in a manner that suggest that they should be banned,” Humphrey said
He further explained, “We brought all of the major importers into a room and we told them what we found and ask them to have a conversation with their suppliers and over time we can gradually move to a state where we don’t have these PFA containers in Barbados.”
Humphrey told Barbados TODAY that there were tests still to be done, as it is still to be determined if the PFA’s found in the products coming into Barbados are long chain or short chain. The traditional long chain PFA’s are considered most problematic. He therefore assured Barbadians that further testing and intense scrutiny will continue as it relates to these products.
“This is where we are at now and we have asked the suppliers to ensure that every shipment that they bring in, they give us the composition of what is inside the containers. In the meantime, we will continue to do testing,” he said, while acknowledging that the products, in which the BNSI found high fluorine levels, would most likely not pass certification for some international bioplastic agencies.
Just days after the July 1 start of the ban on single-use plastics, Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland expressed serious concern with some of the replacement products coming into Barbados. Though noting that there was no need for alarm, Sutherland called for importation standards to be put in place, as it relates to the biodegradable alternative to single-use plastics.
“We can’t just say we are banning plastics and our replacement biodegradable products have high levels of fluorine, which in effect, poses the same danger as the single-use plastics,” he said.
However, Humphrey, who was instrumental in implementing the ban, made it clear that he was not caught off-guard by the recent revelation.
In fact, he contended that it was his Ministry that had instructed the BNSI to test the containers in the first place, adding that this was done out of an abundance of caution.
This morning Humphrey told Barbados TODAY that the testing was all part of Government’s due diligence in implementing the ban on single-use plastics, pouring cold water on the notion that he had jumped the gun, as it relates to the month-old prohibition.
“We haven’t been responding, we have been leading. So, the truth is that the tests on all of the alternatives were done by the Ministry… During the consultations we had a representative from Trinidad speak to the composition of the container and the high concentration of fluorine. So out of our own personal due diligence, the Ministry made a request to have the containers tested. We contacted BNSI and other players to do the tests on behalf of the Ministry, through an institution in the US known for doing those tests,” he noted.
The Minister also assured the country that the products posed no threat to humans or the environment, noting that it would take a tremendous accumulation over a very long time to raise any serious concerns.
“The science has suggested to us that you would have to consume a tremendous amount of these PFA’s in order to have problems. A lot of the containers that we already use have PFA’s. These are not new containers. You can also find PFA’s in a lot of the wrappers for fast food and even found in water. I think the Ministry is showing a lot of due diligence by testing these containers and then over time be in a position to phase them out as other alternatives arise,” he said, making it clear that a return to single-use plastics was not an option. [email protected]