B'dos committed to biodegradable future, but plastics win for COVID-19
Minister of Maritime Affairs and Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey.
Barbados' ban on petro-based plastics is temporarily suspended amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey disclosed that the usage of plastic bags locally has tripled within the past few weeks since the island recorded its first cases of the COVID-1 9 virus last month.
He revealed that on average Barbadians are using three million plastic bags a month.
The April 1, 2020, ban was lifted after local retailers and supermarket owners expressed concern about the accessibility of plastic bags. Petro-based plastic bags were reintroduced to reduce COVID-19 contact, however, businesses had to be apply to be exempted from the ban.
"The thought of using so much petroleum-based plastic bags grinds me to the core but the idea that we will leave Barbadians exposed with no plastic bags at all because they can’t get any bio-based plastic bags grinds me to the core even more, so as a conscientious government we made the decision that we would allow the manufacturers to be able to source that resin but it has to be through an application, they have to make a case [and] say their reason and we would allow it for a certain amount of time," explained the Minister of the Blue Economy.
"I have spoken to all the manufacturers, [and] I was very clear with them that the country remains committed to a biodegradable future, a bio-based future, and any adjustments that we make to it will be temporary," he further emphasized.
Humphrey disclosed that local manufacturers will be able to only supply 1.3 million supermarket bags presently, due to the limited amount of resin available. He detailed that it would take manufacturers approximately five months to receive the quantity of biodegradable resin needed, due to the closure of borders.
"When we banned single-use plastic bags on April 1, none of us . . . across the world had foreseen the mammoth task before us all in dealing with COVID-19. What COVID-19 has served to do is to disrupt supply chains all over the world so that where we were able to source our biodegradable resin from China in a few weeks, it is now very difficult in the world to be able to source this biodegradable resin and in fact, even in cases where you can source it a lot of the different markets are closed off so it has become very difficult to be able to access it," he said.
The Minister stated that COVID-19 has highlighted the country’s dependence on resin imports and he suggested that local entrepreneurs explore developing biodegradable resin locally in a bid to becoming “environmentally sustainable.”
"Barbados does not yet produce that natural resin that allows these things to be biodegradable and compostable . There are situations where our local manufacturers cannot source that resin on the international market, it is hard to get.
It is almost impossible for them to get. This is the conversation we need to have as a government, how do we encourage our local entrepreneurs and innovators to be able to create a resin from something Barbadian or at least the Caribbean that we can continue to be involved in the move to being environmentally sustainable."