by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Importers of biodegradable products should ensure the items are in fact biodegradable
- Legislative changes to Non-Biodegradable Waste Control Act may be required
- Substandard “biodegradable” polystyrene products are being imported undetected
Importers of biodegradable products are asked to conduct extensive background checks to ensure that products that carry the label “biodegradable” are actually, in fact, biodegradable before importing them into Grenada.
The advice came from Jerry Rappaport, President of the Grenada Hotel & Tourism Association (GHTA) nearly 4 months after the official importation ban. This follows concerns that substandard “biodegradable” polystyrene (Styrofoam) products are being imported undetected.
“We are seeing that biodegradable straws are being sold in Grenada for use in properties and we have done research on them and they are not biodegradable. So I will caution all people, businesses, in particular, looking at products like this, to do your homework and make sure that something that is being advertised as being biodegradable or recyclable is, in fact, biodegradable or recyclable.”
Despite the ban on polystyrene (Styrofoam) products in September 2018, the GHTA president said there are signs that they are still being used in Grenada. “We are still seeing Styrofoam being used in Grenada and by now it’s not supposed to be in use anymore. We think there is a breakdown in some understanding of the new law in regard to possibly customs and importation so we are going to do our research to be able to go to the government with the issues that exist and hopefully work with them to solve it.”
He added, “We are also concerned about the plastic bag ban that’s supposed to go forward because it only speaks towards bags with handles and doesn’t speak to bags without handles. So we are not sure if that’s going to be as effective as it should be.”
Rappaport foresees that to address some of those issues will require legislative changes to the Non-Biodegradable Waste Control Act. “Yes, I believe there will be a requirement for some legislative changes, specifically with the plastic bag ban the way it was written, that will have to be rewritten to a degree.”
Rappaport admits that the transition away from plastics will be difficult due to our dependency, but hopes that the GHTA and the government can make the transition smoother. “We are trying to work with the government to see in what way we can help with making the transition smoother for some people. We are not sure how it might be to manufacture reusable bags that we will be able to distribute in the community, but we recognise that there are some challenges,” he said.
Joining the list of people in agreement with the ban on polystyrene (Styrofoam) and single-use plastic is South African environmental artist Ingrid Newman, living and travelling throughout the Caribbean and Central America. She resides in Grenada and currently uses every opportunity to display her body of work which includes sculptures made from melted polyester netting, plastic and inorganic materials that are manipulated to form human-like figurines.
She said that her artwork turns waste into art to raise awareness of single-use plastics that are killing marine species. She described her latest piece of work which requires her to collect over 300 soda bottles and 50 metres of plastic to construct.
“I work largely with plastic water bottles so in here I have 300 soda bottles acting as a kind of armature within the structure that I am busy building at the moment. As you work with it, as you cut it down, heat it, manipulate it, it kind of shrinks, so the irony is that I keep running out of materials.”
Commenting on the ban of polystyrene (Styrofoam) and other environmentally hazardous materials, Newman brought attention to the use of polystyrene materials that are generally considered recyclable. She is advocating that people find creative ways of reusing these materials to prevent much of it from entering the environment.
“Where we need to start educating ourselves is that polystyrene has been banned, but I recently discovered that all of the disposable plastic cups that we use, if you have a look at the base it says PS6. Polystyrene comes in different forms and when heat is applied to those cups they [get] absolutely hard so that’s not going to break down in [the] landfill and it is also going to give you a lot of weird chemicals and toxins when burned. [We have] got to find some way of using it and turning it into something of value.”
The GHTA is hopeful that importers of biodegradable products will take heed to prevent these substandard products from entering the country.