Bad News: Barbados Government taxes No Plastic Bag Day into submission then Environment Ministry ignores this vital project!

The Good

By all accounts, last weekend’s first annual No Plastic Bag Day in Barbados was successful in raising public awareness that there is an alternative to the millions of plastic bags Bajans throw away every year. Thousands of Bajans got the message as Future Centre Trust volunteers publicized the event at the wonderful businesses that participated: Emerald City, Carlton & A1, Super Centre, Trimart, Coffee and H&B Hardware.

As an example of what can be accomplished, Kammie Holder reports that through the excellent efforts of Mr. Dean, the cashiers and packers at Emerald City, between 9am and 2pm 80% of the shoppers participated in No Plastic Bag day and used a combination of green bags, cardboard boxes or brought their own bags to re-use.

Good work by Mr. Dean & Emerald City!

The Bad

Some stores were totally indifferent to No Plastic Bag Day. As Kammie puts it, Bajans can be very complacent.

But as BFP reader “Passin thru” said…

“Well done to Kammie and all the people at the Future Centre Trust. This was the start of something beautiful and it will grow every year and you’ll see that five years from now more people will use fewer plastic bags. That will be the longterm result of this first “no plastic bag day”.

No environmental project can be “wham-bam-accomplished”. This is a long term project to change the minds and culture of people who don’t care. Kammie and the other good people know that and they keep plugging away.”

The Ugly: Sabotage by Barbados Government

Unfortunately though, No Plastic Bag Day was nowhere near as successful as it could have been because the effort was sabotaged by the Barbados Government – and then totally ignored by Environment Minister Lowe and his Ministry workers.

No Plastic Bag Day sabotaged by government? Yup… sabotaged.

SHAME on Environment Minister Denis Lowe & Prime Minister David Thompson: Didn't care, didn't attend, didn't send reps during planning or to No Plastic Bag Day. Refused to exempt the Green shopping bags from duty and taxes.

The Barbados Government, Environment Minister Denis Lowe and the Environment Ministry were invited to participate in the planning and execution of No Plastic Bag Day. What a waste of effort.

Denis Lowe canceled a scheduled meeting with the Future Centre Trust at the last moment saying he had more important commitments. Lowe sent no stand-in. No Ministry of the Environment personnel responded to invitations either – and no politicians from any party showed up during the planning or on the day of the event.

The Barbados DLP Government of Prime Minister David Thompson did do one thing though: the DLP denied a duty waiver on the green shopping bags imported as part of No Plastic Bag Day.

That’s right folks – despite the Future Centre Trust’s point that over $10 million dollars is spent every year to clean the drains of plastic bags, the David Thompson Government couldn’t see any further than the duty & tax revenues from the sale of green shopping bags.

Consequently, the bags had to be priced several dollars higher than the intended $3 price point, so fewer were purchased and used by members of the public.

Thanks for nothing to Environment Minister Denis Lowe, the Ministry of the Environment and the government of Prime Minister David Thompson!

It is a sad irony that during the past few days the elites have been doing the champagne and finger-food thing at the 1th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-11). They’ve been listening to Jonathan Tourtellot, Director of the National Geographic Centre for Sustainable Destinations, telling folks about the importance of community involvement and initiatives.

Is it too much to hope that Mr Tourtellot might see this article and understand that what is SAID by Barbados Government officials bears no link to what is DONE or NOT DONE by the Barbados Government?

Expose the disconnect between what is said by the Government of Barbados and what is actually done!

I wonder if any of our readers will send this article and other recent articles on the environmental failures of the Barbados Government to Mr. Tourtellot? Only when our elected and appointed government officials come to know that there is accountability will they get serious about the environment and stop faking it to grab those international aid dollars.

Barbados doesn’t have any environmental protection legislation. No mandatory recycling or local pickup. Zero controls or standards on hazardous chemicals. Zero environmental standards or enforcement. We’re building on every available inch of the West Coast and deliberately destroying the last mangrove wetlands so the majority of the surrounding watershed can be sold to developers. Previously protected environmentally sensitive land at Graeme Hall has already been re-zoned to allow development.

How does all that square with fine words by government officials this week in Bridgetown and New York?

Let the world know the reality. That’s the only way things will get any better.

Here’s Mr. Tourtellot’s email. We’ll fill in the emails from the other speakers at the conference as we find them…

Jonathan B. Tourtellot, Director, and Geotourism Editor, National Geographic Traveler   Attention: Jonathan Tourtellot, Jonathan B. Tourtellot, Director, and Geotourism Editor

Jacqueline Kuehnel, Managing Director, JK Consulting Enterprises

Jean-Marc Flambert is a tourism marketing consultant based in England

Dr. Kwame Boafo currently works with the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean

Erika Harms is the Executive Director of the Tourism Sustainability Council (TSC) and Senior Advisor on Tourism at the United Nations Foundation.

Rosemarie Thomas took up the position of Programme Coordinator at Travel Foundation’s office in Tobago in 2005.

Mary Mahon Jones is a Canadian-based tourism consultant, specializing in cultural tourism.

Terestella González Denton has an extensive background in economic and tourism development in both public and private sectors.

Jason deCaires Taylor was born in 1974 to an English father and Guyanese mother, spending the earlier part of his life growing up in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.

Andy Dumaine is on a mission to change the way tourism is bought and sold

Erica Allis is working as a full-time consultant in UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics since 2008.

Dr. Colmore Christian a citizen of Dominica, has had years of experience working at senior administrative and technical levels in the public sector in the Caribbean.

Dr. Murray C. Simpson is a Senior Research Associate at Oxford University Centre for the Environment, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Director of The CARIBSAVE Partnership with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), and an Associate of Climate Change Risk Management (CCRM).

Henry S. Fraser, G.C.M., MB, BS, PhD, FACP, FRCP (UK) was born in St. John, Barbados. He is past Chairman of the Tourism Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Tourism, President Emeritus of the Barbados National Trust, and Chairman of the World Heritage Task Force of the Barbados National UNESCO Committee, charged with preparing the nomination of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a World Heritage Site.

Dr. Keith Nurse is Director of the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.

Dr. Leo Brewster, Director Coastal Zone Management Unit


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Environment, Politics, Tourism, Travel, Traveling and Tourism, Wildlife

17 responses to “Bad News: Barbados Government taxes No Plastic Bag Day into submission then Environment Ministry ignores this vital project!

  1. John

    I just sent the link to the National Geographic Centre for Sustainable Destinations for Attn: Jonathon B. Tourtellot. let’s see what happens.

  2. Douglas Newsam

    What an unfortunate situation when the Minister responsible says he has more important things to do than attend a meeting to help save our environment. However, we should not be surprised. The time for complacency is over; be aware of what is happening in and to our island and let us make meaningful changes, with or without Government assistance.

    Oh yes, and in these serious economic times neither should we be surprised that the Government did not see it fit to waive the duty on the environmentally friendly bags! The money may be needed to help an insurance company ….. so that the policyholders and depositors do not need to worry.

  3. Sarah V

    Hey, wait a minute. I totally agree that insufficient care is given to environmental matters. After a while, the b.s. from above starts to smell.

    But when you say stuff like “Barbados doesn’t have any environmental legislation. No recycling,” then I can no longer give much credence to your reporting. There IS environmental legislation. It just isn’t enforced. And there IS recycling. To hear that there isn’t is a slap in the face to companies that are doing it, such as B’s Botttle Depot, and a discouragement to the public who would participate if they knew. Are you not aware of the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre? Located at Vaucluse, St. Thomas, SBRC diverts 50% of the island’s waste from the landfill. By making it quicker and easier for truckers to dump their cargo, SBRC also help discourage illegal dumping, which occurs more often when the proper procedure is made frustrating.

    SBRC sorts society’s refuse and removes all that can be reused or recycled. Woody and “green waste” such as grass, coconut shells, tree trimmings and old pallets gets ground up to be sold as mulch. Plastics, cardboard, glass, and metals are collected for transfer to recyclers. Construction and demolition waste gets processed into soil for landfill.

    The place is huge. If you ever went to the dump, a.k.a. Mangrove, you couldn’t miss this new facility.

    So please, do advocate loudly for better practices, but don’t spread half truths and call it reporting.

  4. Analyzer

    To tell you truth I use all my grocery plastic bags as garbage bags. They are biodegradable.
    I’m more concerned about all of the styrofoam used to package vegetables.

  5. dismanhey

    @ Sarah V .. a question on the recycling at the bottle depot .. why are some bottles , glass or plastic excluded ?

  6. BFP

    Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for your very detailed comments. We’d like to point out a few things in return.

    First of all, Barbados does not have an Environmental Protection Act that controls and sets standards. If it does, please list it and we’ll eat our words. You’ll be looking a long time for that legislation. Each Environment Minister including the current one has promised to introduce the legislation but it never happened. Dr. Lowe promised over a year ago that an Environmental Management Act would be introduced “within a few weeks”. That was over a year ago.

    As to recycling, we should have said “legislated, mandatory recycling with public pickup” which is the standard – so thanks for the push to clarify what we meant. The wonderful people who have established private recycling centres for various materials have done an excellent job but the results are limited because it is not mandatory and island wide. As Dr. Lowe said, “We have to get serious about recycling”… but other than privately-driven businesses we have not seen any action. Fine words from Dr. Lowe. Fine words.

    And let’s be truthful about Barbados and legislation… culturally we have a difficult time implementing and enforcing legislation of any kind. The laws we do have are enforced with different standards for different people.

    Why don’t we have any environmental legislation respecting hazardous chemicals, pipelines and gasoline storage tanks? The reason is that the oil and industrial companies fund the politicians. Same old same old!

  7. Sarah V

    @Analyser, I agree about the styrofoam packaging for vegetables. It sucks. I’ve tried breaking it up and adding it to dirt to lighten potting soil and give better drainage, but that’s a pain in the arse and doesn’t address the fact that it is overabundant in the first place. Better to shop at Cheapside or other public markets, where they just don’t use it at all. And let supermarkets know your views. I do the former, and just reminded myself to do the latter! On the other hand, you can make a very cheap and effective varnish by putting styrofoam in gasoline, so maybe the solution is to treat it like a free input and start a business!

    @dismanhey, I don’t know. I guess it has something to do with what types of plastics and glass are most recyclable, or marketable to recyclers.

    @BFP. Point taken. I just wish you had been clearer in the first place. It sets me off! The important thing is that we’re on the same side of this environment issue, so I’d like to bury the hatchet, if there is one. Or stick it up some official’s … oh never mind.


    PAUL GOETTLICH / Living Nutrition v.17 5oct2005

    [More by Paul Goettlich]

    Anyone who gets email has seen the one containing fraudulent predictions of Nostradamus. About four years ago, I received a similarly suspicious email stating that a researcher had found six times more plastic than plankton floating in the middle of the Pacific. This one struck a chord with me because of my knowledge of plastics. I wanted to find out if it was just a prank or, heaven forbid, the truth.

    I tracked down the source, which was Captain Charles Moore, the founding director of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF). He sent me a study he coauthored: “A comparison of plastic and plankton in the North Pacific central gyre” from Marine Pollution Bulletin[1] — a well-respected, peer reviewed, scientific journal. The study substantiated his claim that “the mass of plastic was approximately six times that of plankton.” A large percentage of that is made up of tiny bits of plastic — called nurdles — that have not yet been made into a product.

    Pellets (nurdles) with scale
    photo: Paul Goettlich

    The immediate realization that came to mind was the effect our lifestyle of lustful consumerism has on the world that sustains us. The realization has persisted, as it is deeply etched in my mind’s eye. Capt. Moore and I have spent a lot of time together since then. I’ve organized events for him and I’ve been on his research vessel, the O.R.V. Alguita. Luckily, when I was a teenager, my buddies had sail boats, but nothing like the Alguita. So I haven’t given up hope just yet that I might go for a sail with him.

    In October 2002, the AMRF was awarded a $482,000 grant by the State Water Resources Control Board (California) to study how trash, plastics, and minute debris interfere with the natural functioning of the Los Angeles River, San Gabriel River watersheds and other waterways in California’s urban areas.[2]

    I spent a day in mid-April with Capt. Moore at his lab in Long Beach, California for a close up look. The AMRF shares harbor space with other organizations. It has many rooms where staff and volunteers sort, categorize, quantify, and store the debris collected in this well-funded study. During my initial walkthrough with Capt. Moore I saw all shapes, sizes, and colors of plastic that have been sampled. The range of large- to small-sized debris found during the Alguita’s voyages to the middle of the North Pacific gyre is one large piece, such as a tire or large float, to about a million of the nurdles in a sampling area of about one kilometer. For every hundred square meters of sea surface there is half about one pound of plastic debris, or roughly three million tons in the thousand-mile course through the gyre.[3]

    There is more than one “garbage patch” the size of Texas that is nearly covered with floating plastic. In Moore’s own words, “It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.”[4]

    We only see the stuff that floats. But it can sink and/or float depending on the environmental conditions of the ocean. Because the specific gravity of much of it is roughly that of the ocean water, it can rise in rough seas and sink during the calms. Sunlight, which has very limited penetration in the water, breaks it down into continuously smaller particles until it reaches molecular size.

    Some of the plastic debris has taken a fifty-year voyage in violent seas since it was first produced. And it doesn’t appear to be breaking down into something that is even close to the natural materials of the earth they once came from. There are estimates of how long this will take, but it clearly takes more than fifty years.

    Albatross chick (above); and remains of adult with gut full of plastic (below). Notice the wide variety of bottle caps in this one. With smaller animals, more damage is done by smaller pieces. The plastic goes down the gullet quite easily. But since it is not digested, as in the original plan for all life, it gets stuck before exiting the stomach. There it sits to block the entry and digestion of legitimate food. Even the tiniest of pieces can cause blockages.

    albatross photos: Cynthia Vanderlip

    According to a study published in 1992 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), plastic pellets were one of the most abundant types of debris found in US harbors of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico. These nurdles are the feed stock of the plastics industry and come in a variety of shapes — spherical, ovoid, and cylindrical — with sizes ranging from one to five millimeters diameter. In 1992, nearly sixty billion pounds of these plastic pellets were made annually in the United States and are shipped via train, truck, and ship. The most commonly produced resins include polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene.[5] Considering the magnitude of the problem, the most logical sources would be somewhere along the supply chain of the plastics industry.

    How does it get into the ocean?

    The AMRF study is aimed at finding the source of the plastic, but it is more of a question of how it is permeating the ocean waters of the world. Since most of the plastic consists of pellets that have not even been made into a product, logic dictates that the source is the plastics manufacturers, which are scattered throughout the four-county region where the study is taking place. There are literally hundreds of manufacturers and each has direct access to the ocean via storm drains and rivers. The EPA has known of this global problem for more than a decade. Yet the problem is only getting worse, is still unregulated and nothing is done beyond studies of the problem.

    What harm does it do?

    For a coastal municipality such as Long Beach, California that has been hard hit by the problem, it is a major financial headache. It clogs up any kind of filter, no matter what the size of its opening. Boat engines and propellers are hindered by it as well. Tourists scorn it and shun areas where plastic is most abundant.

    The real damage is what most untrained eyes miss: choking and starving birds, turtles, and other animals. The size of the debris that gets lodged in their throats, stomachs, and or intestines determines their fate. Similar to plastic getting into our food from packaging, it migrates into the water and animals that eat it, along with chemicals that are attracted to the nurdles like hitchhikers. These hitchhikers are the metabolites — breakdown products — of DDT and other dioxin-like chemicals that accumulate up to one million times greater than the ambient seas concentrations.[6] The confluence of the many thousands of man-made synthetic chemicals along with other environmental factors such as rising ocean temperatures is drastically reducing the fertility and populations of many ocean species, as well as overall biodiversity.


    We cannot wait for more studies. If there is any time left to turn this around, there isn’t much. My own opinion is that there is no good plastic and that we must immediately end or at least put severe limitations on its use.

  9. reality check

    Who paid for all of these honourable and educated UN representatives to come to Barbados and at what point do they need to take their mouths away from the organs of government and scream—No more and for shame!

    After a while these conferences, without discussing the realities on the ground, become
    THE PROBLEM for turning a blind eye, all the while slapping each other on the back and having a drink together.

    So where is the next sustainable conference we can sign up for?

  10. turflights

    well i got my bag from carters free of cost where as the supermarkets like the shipping and trading group tried to lean your pocket as usual , bag was selling there for $5,00 so it you had a lot of items , you might have spend like $25 on bags alone in these times. how is it carters can give free . future trust do better.

  11. victor

    People’s attitudes are changing. Ten years ago nobody cared about plastic bags, etc., in fact laughed at the idea that there was anything wrong in chucking your Chefette or KFC packaging out the window of the car. Careful staff would pack the groceries, in individual bags of appropriate size, etc. at the supermarket, as a PR exercise and a given. Those little bags were reused at home as I guess most householders would agree!

    Yet the fact is that you don’t need two people at the checkout, one to do the maths and another to pack, if we brought our own bags, not hard to do.

    So that means staff have lost jobs, people have to pack their own groceries as they do in the rest of the world.

    The big difference is that people have started to pay attention to the idea of waste and pollution, it’s no longer a given that you can chuck stuff out without a thought. That can only be good for Barbados. Now that people have grasped the concept they will just take it into their wider lives, hopefully. The polystyrene issue is more difficult in a country with a year round high temperature.

    Going to the shop, buying some fish or mince, getting it home on the bus, putting it in the fridge or freezer (if you have one!) does not get any easier. How to dispose of the polysterene packaging without a proper sorting system? Youre in a village, lucky enough to have garbage collection once a week, let alone sorted garbage. Who will pay for your efforts to sort it and who will sort it? Once it has been sorted where will it go?

  12. Politically Tired

    Any plastic with the triangular sign on it is recyclable, why should you be paid for sorting your garbage? its called ‘how can I help’ & it takes a moment, our recyclables go into different boxes (plastic/glass/tins) & are dropped off at the Future Centre, its collected from them & they receive the money for it. If you have no transport than the transport board, then yes its very difficult.
    Unfortunately a large amount of the population still see nothing wrong in throwing pep bottles/food packaging out of car/bus windows or leaving it in large quantities in picnic areas. Its not as if people have not been informed about the environmental impact this is having on the Island not to mention the breeding of mosquitoes in water filled garbage dumped in gullies & gardens. I’m getting to the stage where I just don’t know how you can make people any more aware, we have beach clean days/adverts on CBC & in the papers warning/advising. Its seems that some people just don’t give a sh.. about the environment .

  13. Pingback: Will Barbados Environment Minister Denis Lowe attend World Environment Day Parish Walk – Saturday, June 5, 2010? « Barbados Free Press

  14. Pingback: Nation News removes “Barbados Free Press” from citizen’s letter « Barbados Free Press

  15. Pingback: 20,000 Green shopping bags sold in Future Centre Trust “No Plastic Bag” project! « Barbados Free Press

  16. Pingback: Environmentalists puzzled as Barbados added to Ethical Traveler’s Best 10 List | Barbados Free Press

  17. Pingback: Barbados don’t need no stinkin’ Environmental Legislation because we got another loan! | Barbados Free Press