Video: GHTA warns of possible importation of “fake” biodegradable product 

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • Polystyrene or Styrofoam impossible to biodegrade
  • Call for Customs division to be trained on biodegradables

There appears to be capitalisation on the prohibition of environmentally harmful polystyrene (Styrofoam) products. Vice President of the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association (GHTA) Russell Fielden said they are very much concerned over the importation of “fake and substandard biodegradable” polystyrene products which seem to be slipping undetected into the country.

“What is happening is that many manufacturers who have no ethics, no morals at all they will print into the Styrofoam container “biodegradable.” Biodegradable Styrofoam is impossible, it does not biodegrade and they are pretending. I have seen plastic bags that say biodegradable and if you look at the small print at the bottom, it says biodegradable under special conditions, 20% biodegradable and the rest of it is plastic and it takes 900 days for the 20% to biodegrade.”

Effective 1 September 2018, a ban was placed on polystyrene commonly referred to as ‘Styrofoam’ according to the Non-Biodegradable Waste Control Act which is expected to be followed by sale sanctions on ‘Styrofoam’ effective 1 March 2019 with the overall ban on its use the following month. This initiative sanctioned and facilitated by the GHTA has been lauded as it sets precedence towards ensuring an environmentally friendly and healthy nation.
However, Fielden said all their efforts might be at risk of being eroded as it is understood that styrofoam is still being imported into the country. “The Styrofoam is still coming in by the truckload into the country and we need to stop it. We need to make the authority aware that this is happening and the customs officers can’t be blamed as individuals. I mean they see it is biodegradable of course they will let it come in, so the law must be really enforced because if it isn’t enforced then we back to where we were before.”

Information received from the Grenada Green Group indicates that OXO-Biodegradable Plastics should be considered a non-biodegradable product banned under the Non-Biodegradable Waste Control Act, 2018. The importation of these products is not in the public’s interest and does not align with the spirit of the Act, which is to prevent Grenada from being clogged with environmentally harmful waste products. Oxo-(bio)degradable or additive degradable plastics is not an environmentally friendly alternative given the current waste management system and climate conditions of Grenada.

The Customs and Excise department was adamant that Styrofoam food containers and other articles (Heading 3923: Articles for the conveyance or packing of goods, of plastics; stoppers, lids, caps and other closures, of plastic) were not currently coming into Grenada through legal means. When asked what food containers were coming in, the agent indicated that food containers would now fall under Chapter 48 (Commodity 48195090 – Other), which indicates Wood and Paper. If the article indicated that it was ‘biodegradable’ but it is Styrofoam, customs is required to hold the product until it can be verified by the Bureau of Standards. There is a possibility, however, that an importer may be reporting the commodity under a false code (ie Code 48 Wood and paper instead of 39 Plastics).

With regard to the importation of plastic bags, a ban is also expected to be implemented in 2019, but Fielden says another concern for the GHTA is the single-use plastic bags which like Styrofoam is not biodegradable.m“It breaks down into smaller particles, but it still ends up in the environment and it is very unhealthy for the environment. The average lifespan of a plastic bag is 15 minutes… people need to start thinking rationally about the use and need for plastic bags.

Fielden voiced his concern that the major supermarkets must play their role in reducing the reliance on plastic. “Supermarkets have a huge responsibility to stop double wrapping people’s goods in 2 plastic bags. Let people bring their own plastic bags. We can do it and we can save Solid Waste (GSWMA) a lot of money if they didn’t have that issue to deal with. So banning plastic bags is a major step forward.” In 2017, plastic accounted for 12% – 16% of household/domestic waste dumped at the Perseverance landfill. Household/domestic waste was the largest (48.7%) category of the total waste stream arriving at the Perseverance Disposal Site. The GHTA is now pushing for recycling to become the order of the day to solve the problem of waste disposal in Grenada. “We do very little if at all no recycling in Grenada and we are fortunate to have a robust system for collecting garbage. Our garbage is collected throughout the country twice a week; that is very unusual in any country in the world, but especially in the Caribbean so what we need to do now is start educating the public to separate out the garbage, separate out your plastics and they can be recycled. We can separate out glass.”

Fielden who also the owner of the True Blue Bay Resort estimates that between 1.5 and 2 million glass bottles are being dumped into Perseverance landfill every year which can be easily avoided if they are recycled by crashing them into aggregate. As it relates to the growing issue of the dumping of used motor vehicle tyres, 2017 has seen a decrease in the amount disposed of due to the shredding of tyres which has resulted in a 36% decrease in the volume of tyres from 26,575 tyres in 2016 to 17,033) in 2017. On a brighter note, Fielden said his boutique resort was able over the last few years to reduce their waste by 60 % through recycling. Meanwhile, the GHTA is calling on the relevant authorities to train Customs officers to differentiate between the 100% biodegradable products from the fake ones.

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