Local packaging firms want more time to get rid of hundreds of thousands of dollars in product ahead of a national ban on the importation and use of styrofoam and single use plastics.
The deadline is April 1 but with stock still on their hands, the firms say they can meet the timeline for a ban on importation, but fear they may have substantial stock still in stock in another two months.
At least one packaging firm confirmed today that it had a 20-foot container on the way to Barbados with 700 cases of bags (which amounts to 1.4 million bags) and two containers of Styrofoam products, which were ordered at the end of last year.
To import the Styrofoam containers the cost could reach as much as US$7,000 for about 1,000 cases.
At the same time, local food vendors are worried about the increased cost they will face and are therefore giving early notice of a possible increase to customers.
Last September Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey made the announcement of the ban of the products, indicating that after weeks of meetings and deliberations “we are in a position to announce a ban on the import and retail of most styrofoam and many single use plastics”.
“Barbados must become a circular economy and take waste out the system and recycle the plastic that we are unable to completely keep out for now,” said Humphrey.
Meat trays and some other foam products and bags will remain due to international best practices and requirments.
It is understood that the minister has been meeting with manufacturers, packaging companies and other businesses that use the items in an effort to further discuss the matter and hear their concerns, and an announcement on the matter could be coming in a matter of days.
Legislation is to be introduced within weeks, and will contain hefty fines for anyone found still using the Styrofoam and single use bags after the April 1 deadline.
Barbados TODAY investigations revealed that packaging companies could be left with millions of plastic bags and containers come the end of March, since most of them import their products between September and November to last an entire year.
Managing Director of Direct Packaging Inc. Bernolyn Mitchell said she is all for the ban but she needed more time to get rid of her stock. She believed the ban on importation of the products should take effect first and then be followed by the ban on the use to allow them time to sell what they had.
She said she had two containers of foam products on the way to Barbados and a warehouse that was “full with single use plastic bags” that may not be sold out by April 1.
“Mind you, I don’t have a problem with the ban. I love the environment and I want to save it but the way how the news came to us is an issue,” said Mitchell, adding that the ideal time to stop the use would be April 2020.
“We need more time. There is so much product,” she said, pointing out that she would import products around November and December so by January her business is fully-stocked for the year.
Another major importer of the products told Barbados TODAY since he had “so much stock on hand” he wanted to know “what will we do with them when we do not get them sold before April 1?”
“And what happens when the big suppliers sell it to the small suppliers what time frame do they have to get it off?” he asked.
“We need the rest of the year or even next year,” he added.
Some suppliers have been selling the vegetable-based alternative to foam for some time. However, the cost of importing one container of those pulp containers could be as much as US$48,000.
Retailers currently sell a pack of 200 containers at a cost of between $32 and $50, but the alternatives could cost a minimum of $120 for the same pack of 200.
A senior sales representative of B-Pak Distributors Limited told Barbados TODAY that company took a decision this week to “slash prices tremendously” in an effort to get rid of all of the foam products and single use bags they have in stock.
Stating that sellers of those products were now in a “tough” spot, the B-Pak official said “I believe we should have been given word a lot sooner.”
“Yes they did say before this is something that will happen, but April 1, I think is a little bit too soon to get rid of the stock you have in place already. All the foams and all the containers and bags that are petrol-based,” she said, adding that she has had to slash prices from $48 a pack to $10 a pack for some foam products in an effort to get rid of some 200 cases.
“What is going to happen is that we are going to be left with them, we can’t sell them so we are going to have to dump them and all that is money that is going to go. While I understand what they are doing, and I am not knocking it because we have to look out for where we live, I think we should get a little bit more time,” she insisted, adding that another year would be ideal.
Government officials are expected to distribute guidelines for the new items that are allowed in place of the foam and single use bags.
“Can you imagine going to a small man that sells food from a van or those who sell at Oistins. So it is going to impact everyone, I don’t know yet if people are going to lose jobs, but they have to do what they have to do and we have to get up to the time and get the alternative,” said one importer.
Food vendors also told Barbados TODAY they needed more time to end the use of the foam products, They also served notice that residents should expect to pay more for their lunch since the containers that would be used after April 1 would cost three to four times more than the foam products.
“Most people will want to carry up their food because of the cost,” said one food vendor, who estimated that as a result some businesses will “suffer”.
“To incur that cost it means that our food is going to go up and not like 50 cents. It means maybe $3. How could you put an increase on food? It is already expensive to buy food,” she said, while calling for a system to be put in place to better dispose of the single-use plastic bags.
Operator of the popular Mile Tree Restaurant and Bar also questioned the timing allowed for the products already purchased to be phased out.
“I don’t have a problem with the ban. If they are trying to put a better system in place fine, but the problem is that it has to be phased in, and I don’t think it should take two or three months, that must phase in over a period of time, because we have to understand that the importers have a lot of products still on the ground. What are they going to do with them?” he said.
He said although the announcement was made in September last year the products were simply not moving as quickly in order to meet the April date.
“So I am saying if you give them a year, a full year, what the people in authority should do is go back to them and ask what kind of stock do you have and do you want some more time,” he said.
“You will have to look at pricing now,” he said, pointing out that he expected the price for the new containers to increase since “the business people can’t absorb that”.
“Food prices will go up for sure. I can’t say by how much yet. We will have to wait and see, but sure it will impact us. So things will get more expensive and they are already expensive,” added another vendor.