Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, chatting with Nationnews about why the ban on petro based single-use plastics is being instituted and the benefits which Barbadians can derive from this change. (Photo by Krystal Hoyte)
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Did you know that when litter is dropped in the streets, it eventually finds its way into our oceans, into our fish and among our coral reefs? This is an environmental tragedy we must hasten to address. The use of petro-based single-use plastics is one of the biggest contributing factors to litter and ocean pollution in Barbados.
Over the years their use has become so mainstream, that for some, the thought of the proposed ban is daunting. Styrofoam and petro-based plastic cutlery and crockery are standard use when we purchase food to-go, attend fairs, picnics and other casual social gatherings. However, as of July 1, 2019, this shall be no more as measures are being taken to significantly reduce our plastic pollution.
After much discussion and debate between the Government and the relevant stakeholders, new legislation will be enacted which places a ban on the importation, use, and sale of these items. No more shall these items when discarded, fill our streets, landfills and ocean, change is coming.
Though this ban is being implemented by the Government of Barbados, Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, the Honourable Kirk Humphrey, has led the charge on their behalf. Humphrey took the time to chat with Nationnews about why the ban is being instituted and the benefits which Barbadians can derive from this change.
What is the correlation between the ban on single-use plastics and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy?
The ban came from the Government of Barbados. It is a policy that the cabinet agreed upon. The reason that the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy is pushing the ban is simply that it is recognised that most of the plastics end up in the ocean and inhabit our marine space. The plastics are ending up in the fish and killing the reef. Essentially, it becomes an issue for the ocean.
Why do you think we as a society have become so dependent on the single-use plastics?
The single-use plastics are convenient. You can take a plastic bag now, use it one time and throw it into the garbage or on the street or take a Styrofoam plate, use it for five or ten seconds then throw it on the street; but it stays around for thousands of years. It is convenient but it doesn’t help us in the long run.
What are the biggest benefits anticipated when the ban is fully enforced?
The first thing you’ll see is less litter on the street. Less plastic means less possibility of pollution, less possibility of damage and less harm to the environment. Over time there will be less of a negative impact on the fish, less of a negative impact on the reef and less of a negative impact on the marine space. You’re going to have initial benefits and you’re also going to have long term benefits as well. When the plastics break down and when the bags eventually degrade, what you get are bits of microplastics. A lot of studies have shown that there are significant numbers of fish with microplastics in their system. I think the impacts are going to be tremendous, some obvious, some not so obvious but all to the benefit of Barbados.
What are the items which will be banned under the new legislation?
We say single-use plastics. We were very specific about the list of things that we banned. If it’s not mentioned on the list of things, I’m about to call then it is not banned. The things we have banned in the initial instance are: petroleum-based food containers and cutlery such as cups, spoons, knives, forks, stirrers, straws and egg trays.
In terms of Styrofoam we banned: the food containers, cups, plates, and egg trays.
Are the alternatives for the items which have been banned readily available?
Those items are all banned now because they’re very low hanging fruit and they are easy items to replace. Most of us think we can’t live without a lot of the things that we’ve just said but Barbadians have lived without them for a long time but more importantly for all of those items that I have listed, there is already a replacement in Barbados. There is already a replacement for the cups, the plates, the forks and people are using reusable straws. Whenever there is a problem being posed, I believe that there is an alternative and there is a solution.
What are the items which have been exempted from the ban?
Even with the ban, there are still some things that we’ve exempted, like garbage bags, bags used for medical or pharmaceutical purposes, bags that are used at the end of a manufacturing process and bags that are used to preserve food. We didn’t ban the meat trays. The chicken producers made a very strong case that it still remains one of the few items that allows them to serve freshly killed chicken in a healthy way. This is to allow Barbados to remain a healthy, safe, clean, place to do business and to live.
Be sure to look out for the second part of this series, coming soon on Nationnews.com.