Humphrey defends implementation of plastics ban

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, has dismissed any suggestions that the government’s decision to ban single-use plastics was spontaneous.

Speaking at a town hall meeting which brought together vendors and the distributors of petro-based plastics, he said that not only was a lot of thought put into the move, but the conversation was in fact started by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Administration three years ago.

“We did not just wake up one morning and decide to do this…I must also say that we weren’t the first Government in Barbados to start the conversation; it was actually started by the last Government. Many people seem to forget that Minister Denis Lowe had announced on May 11th, 2016 that there was going to be a ban in Barbados on all single-use plastics. So, we weren't the first government to say it, but we are the first to do it,” Humphrey told the gathering at the Graydon Sealy Secondary School, Paddock Road, St. Michael.

The Minister recalled that the Mia-Mottley led Administration initially set a January 2019 date for the commencement of the ban, however having spoken to most of the distributors, the ban was moved to April. Humphrey, pointing to the further extension to July 1st, made it clear that this decision was made with the vendors in mind.

“I announced an extension to July 1st to give people more time to use up their stock. The truth is that when we made the extension my driving force was not so much the distributors, but the vendors. Because a lot of vendors were unaware that of April 1st they wouldn’t have the capacity to use the containers as well. Many of them innocently bought the containers and then found themselves with the stock.

“We gave the extension until July 1st for everybody…Now some people have asked about an extension and I have to ask how much time is enough time?,” he stressed.

“When we started having the conversations in the Ministry, it has always been how do we get the vendors involved so that they understand what we are doing, and that the vendors are in a position when the ban comes to have not only the best information, but access to the best containers….As for the distributors, I also feel as if we spent so much time talking to them to the extent that everybody we met with said that they had already started bringing in the alternatives.”

As it relates to cost, Minister Humphrey further emphasised that the duties on the recommended containers are very low, in many cases lower than the duties on some of the Styrofoam.

“However, unit cost and cost of shipping is extremely high – that is the reality and no matter how we spin it, these containers cost more than the containers that are made of Styrofoam and so on,” he declared.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Elsworth Reid said that Barbados is not alone in enforcing such a ban.

“One has to recognise that this ban on the importation and the use of single-use plastics and Styrofoam - that ban is not a Barbados thing; it is very global. As far as I am concerned, Barbados is actually one of the last to be imposing a ban like this”.

“People have recognised the importance of the environment – sea and land. Knowing fully well that the environment has an impact on our health as well as our economy...Plastics and Styrofoam tend to be an enemy to the environment,” he impressed. (TL)

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