Barbadians who fail to comply with the ban on single-use plastics can expect to face stiff penalties when implementation takes effect on April 1st.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, who is championing the cause, sounded the warning during a media sensitization workshop at the ministry’s Charnocks, Christ Church headquarters.
Humphrey spoke of the coming legislation, to be debated over the next three weeks, which will authorize the imposition of “stiff penalties” for those who violate the environmentally-friendly ban or other environmental laws.
The new policy prohibits the use of single-use cups, cutlery, straws, plates, egg trays and styrofoam containers among others.
Humphrey promised an aggressive public awareness campaign to better inform Barbadians of the full implications of the ban, after which, he warned that more punitive measures would be instituted.
“While I do not wish to say specifically what the penalties are, suffice it to say that these penalties are very stiff,” said Humphrey.
He added: “For persons who determine that even though the Government has made a decision that it no longer wishes to engage people supplying single-use plastics, especially in the process of a trade; people who determine that they still want to do it will have to face the penalties.”
The minister added that the policy was not intended to be a whip on the backs of Barbadians and expressed hope that society would work hand-in-hand with Government on the critical issue.
Humphrey revealed that new legislation would give law enforcement the tools to take a much harsher stance against indiscriminate dumping, littering and even against those who fail to keep their properties up to a certain standard of cleanliness.
He also expressed some compassion toward vendors who purchased large amounts of single-use plastic from wholesalers under the impression that they would be allowed to use their remaining stock after the April 1st deadline.
“Perhaps we need to have a conversation around how we accommodate them after April 1st . . . because I never wanted to affect people who are on the street trying to make a dollar. It was never my intention to negatively affect them, so perhaps that’s a conversation we’re going to have to have about how best we accommodate them . . . perhaps give them a little more time,” he said.
“However the importation [of single use plastics] as of April 1st for wholesale will not be allowed. In fact, for retail purposes it will not be allowed until I come back and say differently.”
Humphrey again stressed that Barbadian retailers have already started importing alternative materials to replace the soon to be banned products. He also issued a firm warning to wholesalers and retailers who attempt to exploit consumers by indiscriminately raising their prices.
“People who are bringing in these items now have determined perhaps that now there is this immediate market and that because there’s a market due to Government doing the right thing, they have decided to do an evil thing and to raise the prices on people for these products. It will not happen so.”
While Humphrey admitted there was very little that could be done to directly stop people from raising their prices, he added: “We will spend so much time and money educating the public as to what these products should cost and to make life difficult for the people who haven’t tried to abide by the rules.”