EDITORIAL: Time soon up for use of plastics, Styrofoam

THE news that Government will not be compensating any local retailers who still have single-use petro-based plastics in hand when the ban on plastics takes effect as of July 1, has rattled some persons. However, given all that has transpired of late to accommodate those who had extra stock and who called for an extension on the ban when the first deadline was announced, what more now must Government do?

It was back in March of 2019 that Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, announced that vendors and retailers would have until July 1 to use their existing stock, while the ban on the importation of the products would remain for April 1, as originally announced. It was also noted that the January 1, 2020 ban on all petro-based plastic bags would remain in effect.

The upcoming July 1 ban is on all plastic products such as petro-based single-use plastic cups; cutlery inclusive of plastic knives, forks and spoons; stirrers; straws; plates; egg trays and it also applies to the use of Styrofoam containers in the culinary industry.

It was noted that sometime last year, consultations were held with key stakeholders, including importers, who stated that they would need six months to get rid of their existing stock. As a result, the date for the ban was delayed from January 1, 2019, until April 1, on the recommendation of local vendors and retailers. Hearing that April 1 was too soon, the ban was extended until July 1. It was then made clear that the extended deadline would not be extended further.

“We have gone as far as we could go to accommodate everybody,” Humphrey is quoted as saying.

Now, there you have it. It cannot be said that some accommodation was not made for those who found themselves with too much product on hand, in relation to plastics and Styrofoam. What might have happened, is that perhaps some retailers and vendors ordered too much of a product when perhaps they should have already been making the switch to more eco-friendly biodegradable food wares. Whatever the case, we cannot ignore the fact that the ban on plastics is a step in the right direction and we must change our mindset going forward, so we can do what is right for the environment.

It is said that Barbadians generate an average of 1 000 tonnes of waste per day, of which domestic waste accounts for between 30 and 40 per cent and much of this domestic waste can be recycled. Many of the plastic and Styrofoam containers do not make their way to the landfill anyway, but end up in gullies, drains and even make it out to sea, where marine life is direly affected.

Many of the international countries have already recognised the need to “go green”. Why not Barbados as well? Earlier this month, for example, it was announced that Canada will ban single-use plastics as early as 2021.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the specific items to be banned will be determined by a science-based review, but the government is considering items such as water bottles, plastic bags and straws. Trudeau said his government is drawing inspiration from the European Parliament, which voted overwhelmingly in March to impose a wide-ranging ban on single-use plastics, to counter pollution from discarded items that end up in waterways and fields.

So amidst all of the cries about the decision to ban plastics and the various deadlines, we must dig a bit deeper, try to see the greater good and see how we can comply.

Barbados Advocate

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