Marine biologist Nikola- Simpson. (GP)
What will I put my garbage in? / What will I put my groceries in? / What will I be given my van food in come Monday? Can these new containers hold plenty gravy on my pie? / What about my souse next Saturday?
These are some of the most frequently asked questions (with the latter being the most popular) that I have received since the ban on some petro-based single use plastics in Barbados was announced.
First of all, what are petro-based single use plastics? These are disposable plastics made from petroleum and intended to only be used once before being discarded.
With effect from Monday July 1, 2019 (four days away), members of the public are reminded that no person shall distribute, offer for sale, sell or use the items below.
What items are being banned?
Single use plastic cups, cutlery (knives, forks, spoons), stirrers, straws (except on tetra paks such as juice boxes), plates, egg trays (plastic and polystyrene) and polystyrene (styrofoam) containers used in the culinary retail industry (i.e. what many Bajans call party or picnic plastics). So when I go to a Crop Over fete this summer, I won’t get my ice in a styrofoam bowl? No please!
Will there be a grace period? No, enough time has already been granted to get rid of existing stock.
I am a vendor and still have styrofoam food containers. Can I sell these after July 1st? The answer is No!
If I am caught what will happen? (Asking for a friend.)
Persons found guilty of not adhering to the ban may be fined a maximum of $50, 000, or imprisonment for one year, or both.
What will I use instead? What are the alternatives?
There is a range of biobased alternatives made from materials such as polylactic acid (PLA), natural fibres such as sugar cane bagasse, clay coated paper and bamboo available locally with varying quality and price points.
This provides options to suit many types of food being sold as well as a diversity of business needs. It must be noted that these are still single use and have been ending up on the side of the road, in our drains, gullies, on the beach and in the sea thanks to the littering problem of many individuals. The best alternative is to choose reusable where possible.
But these alternatives cost an arm and a leg, the quality isn’t good, they can’t hold gravy or souse, my aunt’s spilt in her car, my cousin’s on the van and mine on my foot and shoes - said the average person on the street when asked about the thoughts on the alternatives. Yes, like many other products, there are varying quality and price of alternatives on the market. As these alternatives become the primary options on the market, the price will continue to go down as it has already been doing over the past months.
What about the poor small man or woman?
While I appreciate that I am not in their shoes and that the increased cost of the alternative is a factor and concern for many in harsh economic times, I wish people to focus on the true cost - that of the impacts of continuing to use petro - based single use plastic on our health, environment and island.
The same environment and ocean resources that support us - whether it is the oxygen that we breathe, the fish that we eat and the jobs provided by the tourism sector that many of us work in, this is the cost that we should be studying and complaining about instead. Think of the cost to clean up our island, our environment, our home and our health.
Now what about plastic supermarket bags? They being banned from Monday too? But wait how could they be single use when most Bajans reuse their supermarket bags many times?
The ban on specific plastic bags including supermarket carrier bags will come into effect from January 1, 2020. However, there will be a list of items that will be exempted from this such as plastic bags designed for, packaged and retailed specifically for the disposal of waste from households, public places, business places, offices or industrial plants; plastic items for pharmaceutical dispensing or medical use, items designed for storage of agricultural products and the preservation of food such as trays made of styrofoam for the packaging of meat.
If many people adapted when chain supermarkets did not offer bags but instead you brought your own or used a box without much fuss, you too will adapt now.
It is time that we do better - for ourselves and for our country. It is time to sort it out!
You can also visit us at our Crate Barbados/Sustainable Caribbean booth at Small Island Future Fest tomorrow (Friday 28th) and Saturday 29th at Pelican Village. Stop by and learn some simple swaps to sustainability; take a pledge with us to reduce your plastic use as well as see all of the amazing things that this sustainable festival has to offer.
(To find out more about some of the local distributors and brands of alternatives being sold as well as greenwashing and which are better for your health, the environment and your pocket, visit our website below).
Nikola Simpson is a marine biologist that uses her voice to speak for the ocean. She is passionate about raising awareness on ocean conservation such as the impacts of plastic pollution and how we as individuals can make small changes that create a big positive impact towards an environmentally sustainable and conscious Caribbean.
She is the founder of Sustainable Caribbean where she offers a range of sustainability consulting services and the Crate Barbados, the Caribbean's first one stop eco shop.
Social: @sustainablecaribbean @thecratebarbados on IG and FB