Message from Barbados Most Visible Environmentalist
Our objectives are, Advocacy, Education and Conservation while promoting the Circular economy.
Over the years, the Future Centre Trust has undertaken such projects as, No Plastic Bag Day, Planting of Trees along the highways, Trees that feed initiatives, Clean Up Barbados and Future Trees where tourist and locals can purchase a tree and monitor its progress and view its location via Google maps.
Our environment must be ours to own and protect. Each one of us must be custodians and protect our vulnerable Land, Sea and Air space.
As a Small Island Developing state, we are threatened by rising sea levels, prolonged drought, indiscriminate burning, overfishing, improper chemical usage, vehicle exhaust pollutants, excessive use of Single Use Plastic Bags, climate change immigration and high food import bills. We must therefore join with our CARICOM neighbours and collectively let our voices be heard internationally.
The aforementioned perils must be of concern to all, for money in the bank equates to nothing if our air, water and sea are all polluted.
Currently, our selfish consumption patterns are creating an environmental time bomb for future generations, thanks to the extremely high usage of plastic cups, plastic straws, single use plastic bags and Styrofoam containers.
Plastic bags are mistakenly ingested by fish and other animals clogging their intestines which results in death by starvation, clogged wells, broken pumps, increased flooding and increased vectors for mosquito breeding.
Who is to blame for the increased mosquito breeding sites and the clogged drains? Where does the money come from to replace the South Coast Sewerage Plant reverse centrifugal pumps? Where does the real blame lie when raw sewerage flows in our streets on the South Coast?
The hundreds of thousands of dollars used to clear clogged drains and wells are funds that could be better spent by the government to provide services for the poor and vulnerable in our society.
We are quick to blame the government of the day for many of our problems. Perhaps it`s a lack of understanding the role civil society must play in ensuring good governance in modern democracies.
The Future Centre Trust after much concern from the public and discussion with retailers as well as other stakeholders recently embarked on a sensitization programme to highlight the dangers of Single Use Plastic Bags to Barbados.
It was agreed, that a deterrent fee would be the best way to encourage persons to move away from the Single Use Plastic Bag and embrace alternatives such as reusable shopping bags, boxes or if purchasing a few items take them by hand.
So far the results, have been amazing with some retailers seeing as much as a 95% drop in persons demanding plastic bags. Old habits are often very hard to break for change is uncomfortable but often times necessary. Changing from smooth stones to toilet paper was a cost to consumers, but was a move to bring humanity out of the dark ages and a healthier choice. Just as moving from horses to cars thanks to the vision of Henry Forde, despite the higher cost of vehicles the gains to society and travel far outweighed the loss to ranchers.
Today, I am pleased to report to the country that some plastic bag retailers have repurposed their companies and are importing, sustainably harvested bamboo spoons, bamboo forks, paper straws, paper cups all made from recyclable materials. We also have food vendors playing their part, who for love of country are giving discounts for persons bringing their own food containers, which is not anything new. In addition, a bag making cottage industry is evolving using old clothing, cane lily and marine sail off cut material. Another indication, Barbados can save money by embracing the Circular economy which eliminates the need for such ill-conceived financial albatross such as the $700 Million Cahill project designed to make money on the backs of the poor in the .abundance of sunshine and the availability of much grant funding for PV installation.
We hear the concerns about the Optional Single Use Plastic Bag Deterrent Fee, but are we be deterred by naysayers and the pessimist whose ethos is to always keep court by finding fault but never to lift a finger to make a difference or make the world a better place. We say no!
Let me be emphatically clear and state for the records, the Deterrent Fee is not a tax and is not collusion or Price Fixing by retailers. Our casual research has shown retailers are offering deterrent fees from as low as 10 cents up to 30 cents, some are also offering reusable shopping bags for free, providing discounts for persons bringing their own shopping bags while others are offering reusable shopping bags for as little as 3:99 each. All efforts are being made to accommodate shoppers as retailers are sensitive to their needs.
Also it is hoped retailers who are not interested in this Single Use Plastic Bag Reduction Initiative would be kind enough to contribute towards the good work of the Drainage Unit and the Vector Control Unit for the most at risk persons to flooding and mosquito borne ailments live within the highly populated urban corridors of St Michael, Speighstown and Christ Church.
Many have spouted untruths for their own selfish popularity gains as only the Government of Barbados through legislative instruments can introduce a tax.
Let me say without contradiction Barbados is behind in providing strong environmental legislation and has failed to even ratify Rio Principal 10 Declaration and is yet to pass an Access to Information Act, as access to information is a requisite of the Rio Principle 10 Declaration.
Rwanda, Antigua, Guyana, St Vincent & Grenadines, Grenada and British Virgin Island, China, France, Australia and British Virgin Island have either instituted outright bans, deterrent fees or intend to.
Even India within the last 72 hours banned all plastic bags with a thickness of 50 microns or less. What the retailers in Barbados have done is what is happening the world over, led by NGO`s and retailers when governments fail to act in the country’s best interest. To quote from the Sydney Morning Herald “NSW government has continued to resist calls to implement a statewide plastic bag ban, after the country’s grocery giants announced they would cease stocking single-use plastic bags in 2018”
It must also be noted the Future Centre Trust is cognizant of the concerns for Single Use Plastic Bags to be used for garbage disposal.
However, these same bags impact the machinery operations at the expensive landfills in an island with a limited land mass. We all know of the stench which results when the machinery becomes broken at the Mangrove landfill.
We can seek short term solutions like Cahill burning garbage idea to our detriment in a country where we cannot even mitigate vehicle exhaust emissions or we can embrace sustainable practices like Community Recycling aka as Core Network where communities like Fortesque, Ocean City, Ruby Park and Atlantic Shores all have arranged for free, the monthly collection of sorted electronics, paper, magazines, appliances, glass, plastics and card boxes. Laziness nor indifference should never be used as an excuse for failure to do the right things.
The Future Centre Trust`s aim is to promote the proper collection, segregation, recycling, repurposing and composting of household waste. Therefore, let me say the Future Centre Trust is not interested in persons paying 10 cents or even 75 cents what we wish for is that persons be thoughtful enough to opt to refuse the Single Use Plastic Bag, refuse to pay and use alternative methods. How hard is it to act in the best interest of protection of our vulnerable environment for our own wellbeing? Think on why our near shore fish stocks have all but disappeared and its connection to what we do on land. Perhaps, we will soon understand when we have to pay just as much as $20 for a pound of fish the same cost of a Rib Eye steak. Who will we blame then?
Let me say we are grateful for those who have accepted to be the change they want to see and leave a legacy of an environmentally safe country for future generations.
I remain you ever humble passionate environmental servant.