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Businesses brace for plastic ban as higher costs loom for some

With a ban on select single-use plastics approaching, businesses are preparing for the switch with some expecting the move to result in higher costs.

The ban is set to take effect January 1, 2020.

Xavia Rolle, owner of POW Food Truck, said the public was given ample time to prepare for the transition.

“I’ve been seeing the signs for over a year now, and I think they (the government) gave ample time to business owners,” Rolle said.

However, she said finding alternative containers for food has raised some challenges.

“Plastic containers compared to plastic-free items, like the food boxes, are pretty pricey,” Rolle said.

“So, I would say it would add another $20 onto what you would normally pay for 200 count Styrofoam plates. So, of course, the prices we have now will have to go up, and I imagine a lot of other businesses would experience the same increase.”

This, she said, has her somewhat worried as she has been able to keep a steady price list since she opened shop in February 2017.

“Any time prices go up it kind of worries you, but I guess we will have to adapt to it as much as we could,” Rolle said.

Despite the challenges, Rolle added that this ban gives her business an opportunity to improve its branding.

“We’re working on a different type of packaging now, which will increase our brand recognition,” she said.

“We think that there’s always room for improvement for us. With the ban there’s some pros and some cons. We’re able to improve our business with better packaging, but of course, everyone spends more money.”

While she looks forward to turning this plastic ban into an opportunity to improve POW’s branding, Rolle said this move will also pose a challenge because most wholesalers offer a minimum order of 30,000 food boxes.

“When you have a bigger company like Wendy’s or KFC, who can order 30,000 boxes to put their food in, POW doesn’t need that many because we don’t generate that volume,” Rolle said.

“So, 30,000 food boxes is crazy for us to purchase. So, that I know will be a challenge.”

The Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill, 2019 allows exceptions for plastic bags used for several specific purposes, including: bags for waste disposal; compostable single-use plastic bags; bags intended to be used solely to contain wholly or partly unwrapped food for consumption, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, ground coffee, grains or candies; and bags intended to be used to solely contain live aquatic creatures in water.

“No person shall import, distribute, manufacture, possess, sell, supply, or use in The Bahamas any non-biodegradable, oxo-biodegradable, or biodegradable single-use plastic bags,” the bill reads.

The bill would also allow the minister of environment to make other types of plastic bags exempt.

Anyone who is found to have violated the ban would face a fine of $2,000 for a first offense, and in the case of a continuing offense, an additional fine of $500 per day. In the instance of a second or subsequent offense, one could be fined up to $3,000, and in the case of a continuing offense, a further fine of $700 for each day during which the offense continues.

Jayson Braynen, creative and public relations specialist for Fusion Superplex, said they built in sustainability practices before the ban was announced.

“We’re still glad to see the country moving in this direction anyway,” he said.

“Since opening, we’ve been using biodegradable straws and biodegradable containers. So, if you order from Edge lounge right now, you will be getting a biodegradable takeout container.

“We’ve also transitioned our garbage bags to biodegradable bags since we’ve opened.”

Asked if the transition will impact the theater’s prices, Braynen explained that Fusion tries not to pass these expenses on to its consumers.

“As a corporate entity, we have to account for these things and we try to ensure that the customers are not negatively impacted by the change,” he said.

“It’s also good; given the size of our facility, we are able to buy in bulk. Smaller businesses might have a bit of a challenge purchasing their products.”

Ultimately, he said, the process has been seamless for Fusion and customers have responded positively to the change.

Angel Watson, a roadside vendor on Tonique Williams-Darling Highway, said she has experienced issues trying to transition from plastic to compostables.

She said, “Right now, I sell hot dogs, and I’m using plastic straws. I’m just trying to wrap my mind around how I’m going to obey the law and not break the bank.”

She said she has been asked by a few of her customers to start selling souse, but that has also been a challenge because she has not been able to find an affordable option to serve it in.

Larger businesses like Super Value have also expressed some challenges transitioning from plastic to compostables.

Purchasing Director Rachael Sands said, “I know a lot of the vendors who we purchase from are still fumbling around. They still don’t know what they’re going to sell to us in terms of the plant-based bags, and we haven’t got any confirmation on which bags we’re going with.

“Everybody seems to be last minute on that part, and with the reusable bags, we haven’t got them as yet to be honest because it takes about 16 to 18 weeks to actually ship here.”

The government offered businesses a six-month transition period to sell what is left of their prohibited single-use plastic bags as they have made significant financial commitments in this regard.

The deadline for such activity is June 30, 2020.

“We still intend to use those same plastic bags until June,” Sands said.

“We’re not going to stop using them right now. So, we have enough time to prepare ourselves.”

The bill allows businesses to sell those bags to customers for 25 cents to $1 per bag, excluding VAT.  Fees collected from these sales would be retained by the businesses.

Michael Cahill, general manager of Spritz Restaurant, said they transitioned to paper six months ago.

“We agree with the ban 100 percent,” he said.

“It’s a bit more expensive, but you know that’s something we’ve got to absorb.”

He said customers did not have to foot the bill for this transition.

Cahill said, “It is expensive at the moment, but hopefully the prices will drop closer to Christmas as more people come onboard.”

He added that the ban actually makes the business model better as their customers are more accepting of the eco-friendly products they have available.

Director of Marketing for Restaurant Services Limited Ash Henderson said the company generally doesn’t use plastic or styrofoam when serving food.

The company manages KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Quiznos, Luciano’s of Chicago and Anthony’s Bar and Grill. 

“We’ve also received great support from our franchise partners,” Henderson said.

“We’re currently in the process of transitioning to paper cups at Dunkin’, for example, and will be using paper straws and eco-friendly containers and utensils in our other restaurant brands, KFC for example, by the end of the year.

“These eco-friendly products are inherently more expensive, but we’re working hard to minimize any disruptions to our customers. We work with some great supply chain partners, so have had adequate time to prepare for the ban.”

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