Advocacy director with the Future Centre Trust, Kammie Holder.

NEW FEE PAYING OFF

ANY retailer who seeks to profit from the plastic bag deterrent fee will be exposed.

Advocacy director with the Future Centre Trust, Kammie Holder, made this clear during a recent interview with The Barbados Advocate as he reflected on the new fee that retailers have agreed to charge for single-use plastic bags as a means of reducing the use of plastic bags, which are a major environmental hazard. He explained that there is no set means for collecting the fees charged, which are to be donated to the Future Centre Trust, and acknowledged this is something they recognise has to be addressed to ensure that where fees are collected, they are passed on. As such, he said that to ensure transparency, they will likely ask that all retailers collect the fees in marked cans, as some already do.

Speaking then to the success of the initiative, he said that just about six weeks in, all reports reaching him suggests that the new fee being charged by retailers, which is optional, is going extremely well. Holder explained that the goal is not to really raise funds from the initiative, but to see a reduction in the use of plastic bags, and in that respect, he said it is definitely bearing fruit. He disclosed that some merchants have actually seen as much as a 60 to 90 per cent reduction in persons taking “single-use plastic bags” and noted that some merchants are offering discounts to customers when they bring their own shopping bag.

“You have retailers who are having 100 per cent reduction because some persons are so supportive of the initiative that they are charging as much as 30 cents and persons are not paying the 30 cents, so therefore it would be a success. We don’t want people to pay the 30 cents or the 15 cents or the ten cents; we want to bring about a change in behaviour.

The South Coast Sewage Plant can tell you of the issues they have with plastic bags, because every time a plastic bag gets into the system and the centrifugal pumps breakdown, it is costing the Government over $300 000 to fix. That is money that can be used for other social services that has to be diverted,” he explained.

Holder added, “The money does not come from some inferior place, it comes from our pockets, the taxpayers, and we have a duty to ensure we do our part to prevent such from happening. So when people want to lambaste the Government about the sewage system, I think that is disingenuous because it is the said people who litter who cause the plant to become all clogged and the system to breakdown, and they want to blame the Government for that, but it is all our doing.”

The advocacy director made the point as he noted that it is important that retailers understand that the cost of the plastic bag is much more than an accounting cost, it has also a social and economic cost. Holder noted that often improperly discarded plastic bags become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which he said can then pose serious health concerns for the country.

“When you look at what we have to do to treat outbreaks of mosquito breeding to prevent the spread of Chikungunya, Dengue or Zika, that fogging not only helps to get rid of the mosquitoes, but it destroys the good insects as well; when you destroy the good insects that can also impact crop production, so the cost then of the plastic bag is more than an accounting cost,” he maintained.

He explained that some small retailers have not embraced the initiative, indicating that they are not placing added burden on their customers, but Holder, noting too that plastic bags which are not discarded as they should be can also cause flooding, maintained that the deterrent fee is the way to go.

“Whenever there is flooding in the country, the areas that are vulnerable are some of the poorest places where you have serious problems with littering, where the said poor persons are that some of the small merchants in those areas are saying they are not doing it because they are protecting the small man. But I am saying that if you really want to protect the small man, you would protect them from themselves by helping them to change behaviour and not taking the plastic bags,” he stated. (JRT)

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