'Single-use' was named 2018 word of the year by Collins Dictionary. What does this have to do with plastic and Barbados banning it? Single-use refers to products – often made of plastic, used once and thrown away (but remember, there is no such thing as away, it must go somewhere). Now let's talk about plastic. It is a synthetic polymer made up of hydrocarbon material often derived from petroleum, natural gas or coal. Plastic is cheap and convenient but comes with a growing health, environmental and economic cost.
Plastic is all around us. It forms much of the packaging for our food and drink. It can be found in our homes, at work, in our clothing, toothbrushes, computers, phones, dishes, utensils, toys and the list goes on.
Unfortunately, plastic contains chemicals and toxins that impact human health and it has had detrimental impacts on the environment and marine life.
There's some good news: Barbados is banning plastic! The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy in a joint press conference with the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification officially announced a ban on some single use petro based plastic items recently. So let's break it down - the who, what, where, when, why and how?
So what does this mean? From April 1, 2019, there will be a ban on the importation, sale and use of the items listed above. This means that as a distributor or retailer of these items, you can no longer import and sell them. As businesses and individuals involved in the food service and hospitality industry, you can no longer use these items.
Yes, many Bajans are very last minute but don't wait until the ban comes into effect to start making sustainable swaps. Get prepared. Start trying to shift your mindset and thinking about your consumption patterns and waste management. Go back to how people used to live less than 50 years ago - going to the corner shop and getting items that were not wrapped in plastic. Have a little more care and respect for our beautiful island.
So how can you start? Firstly, try to reduce the amount of disposable plastic you buy, use and consume. Do you really need that juice box in a bag in a bag? There are simple alternatives such as using your own reusable shopping bag, using a refillable water bottle, saying no to straws and if it is a must, buy a reusable stainless steel, bamboo or glass one (cue the Crate Barbados).
Now to respond to some of the most common questions that I have received since the announcement of the ban - what am I going to use for my van food? Or at Oistins or for the next Bank holiday picnic?
These may be temporary fixes but do not solve the problem. Although some brands are made of materials that are better for our health and the environment, they are still single use and disposable.
Biodegradable plastics are petroleum based and are combined with an additive that makes them break down more quickly. However, we must be cautious with biodegradable as there are currently no industry standards for these products. For example, to avoid confusion, the state of California banned the use of the term "biodegradable" for any plastic sold in the state.
Bioplastics are made from organic material instead of fossil fuels. The PLA (polylactic) ingredient is natural but acts like PET. Some of the most common types such as CA are made from wood or cotton and starch based polyesters (PLA) are made from corn and plants. However, the crops used are intensive and may have an environmental impact. Bioplastics do not biodegrade in a landfill and are not the answer to marine litter.
Compostable products are defined by international standards and many biodegrade under specific conditions in a commercial composting facility (look for text on the product that says compostable within 180 days in a commercial compost). They need heat as a catalyst to break down. However, Barbados does not have a commercial or industrial composting facility but many people are experimenting and getting some good results. There is a need to place these products in a separate bin, have them collected and directed to specific locations around the island where they can be turned into a valuable resource.
In general, avoid PLA, CPLA and lined products.
Opt for paper or wheat straws and fibre products.
Remember, the best alternative is to choose reusable!
In collaboration with : The Oceanic Standard (TOS): Barbados Edition, Sustainable Caribbean will be launching a free industry specific guide providing sustainability solutions for the hospitality industry. Our launch event with The TerraMar Project will be held on March 16th at Copacabana where we will chat about the upcoming ban as well as share our top picks for some of the products on the local market that fit our brand recommendations.
Don't wait for the ban. Start now. Change starts here. Change starts with you. Make a Small change. Have a Big impact.
Take a challenge with me this week as we try to further reduce the amount of plastic entering our daily life. How about say no to a straw at a restaurant or bar or when buying vegetables, don’t put them in a plastic bag and carry your own?