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The purpose of developing this proposal is to seek government support which will enable us to develop a multi-beneficial programme based on the use of degradable products, in particular, the use of degradable plastic packaging. At the same time, phasing out non-degradable, environmentally damaging and persistent materials becomes imminent, a decision that many countries are making now.

Every day companies are adopting policies to show their concern for our natural resources and the environment. Most are willing to undertake environmentally friendly initiatives, particularly if they export to demanding markets, such as Europe, but face cost constrains that could make them less competitive. By adopting cleaner technologies, companies are relieving the government agencies and the public of the burden of disposal and public health issues that are created with existing products left in the environment. In order to accelerate the process for the benefit of all stakeholders, we are proposing at least one mechanism to encourage the use of degradable materials: the relief from levies and taxes for cleaner technologies, particularly considering that their cost is higher as a consequence of their development and production, and the fact that current non-degradable materials externalise hidden costs that must be borne by all stakeholders.

Our company, Global Environmental Polymers Inc. (GEPI) produces B2N® Back to Nature 100% Degradable Plastic Products. These products are manufactured under license from Environmental Products Inc. (EPI). EPI is a company which develops TDPA® degradable and bio-degradable additives that cause certain types of plastic resins to degrade into water, Carbon Dioxide and biomass with no environmental impact. TDPA® products are food safe, efficient in their consumption of energy and natural resources and can be recycled, reused and disposed of in a landfill.

PROPOSAL OBJECTIVES: Goals and desired outcome

The key factor of the cleaner technologies initiative would be to make available to commerce, industry, waste management companies, and the general public, including the government, these products at similar prices as they are currently paying for non-degradable materials. Moreover, we would suggest that all government agencies could set the standard by adopting such materials as a national initiative to make the world a cleaner, healthier and safer place for visitors and investors. The objectives would be:

  • to facilitate the use of more effective environmental management and greater understanding of the effect of patterns of consumption on the environment.
  • to encourage industry to adopt cleaner technologies that will open doors in the most demanding markets, and significantly improve their image and that of the country
  • to encourage public participation on environmental issues
  • to encourage and build constructive relationships with environmental groups, regulatory agencies, public officials, businesses and concerned citizens
  • to encourage pilot runs of landfill management with the participation of businesses that have a high volume of plastic bag usage (supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, laundries, etc.)
  • to integrate degradable plastics into lifestyle adjustments as a viable option to finding alternatives to plastic altogether
  • to introduce composting as a possible form of small business activity supplying domestic, small, medium and large scale agricultural operations (depending on the outcome of landfill trials)
  • to introduce composting as a viable means of conserving landfill space while assisting in the management of solid waste by mandatory separation of refuse domestically and commercially (depending on the outcome of landfill trials)
  • to promote that a degradable bag, which ceases to exist after its useful life, can be incorporated into existing lifestyles with a significant likelihood of success without reinventing the wheel or changing the status quo where the use of plastic packaging is concerned
  • to facilitate the potential benefits in agriculture dependent economies if their produce can be given priority in foreign markets on the basis of environmentally correct farming habits
  • to anticipate growing trends in various parts of the world that have already taken action and have introduced either bans on the use of non-degradable plastics, or have either introduced levies to their imports or eliminated same for degradable materials, in an effort to provide access to stakeholders, and encourage them, on the use of cleaner and ultimately more economic alternatives.
  • to encourage sustainable consumption habits in the economy.


All people, industry, commerce and public institutions, affect the environment and the same driving forces – population size, consumption levels and habits, choices of technologically manufactured materials – underlie all global environmental problems. The physical problems of development in ecologically fragile regions and the acute public health hazards resulting from inadequate sanitation, drainage, water supply, refuse collection and poorly managed waste disposal sites, are all major concerns, particularly for small island markets. The consequences are often dealt with, but with little consideration of these underlying causes and hidden costs. The environmental outcomes linked to any environmental scheme must therefore be streamlined through policies and programmes for the benefit of the country. National development planning processes should analyze the issue of vested interests, develop the capacity for planning systems to incorporate all concerns and develop the capacity of the statistical department and economic planners to be able to measure impacts, change and environmental costs and benefits.

There has been an increasing focus by Governments worldwide to address the huge problems of litter and waste for at least a decade now. In many countries the environment has been accorded high priority for domestic policy and development assistance. Worldwide, a number of important proposals, such as a plastic bag taxes and waste initiatives have been under consideration, however, the actual implementation and practice of these aspirations for environmental management always seem to fall short and the problems continue.

Environmental focus is of crucial importance to small island states where the issue of space and land use has a tremendous impact on the current population and generations to come. These states need to view environmental issues not as a hindrance to economic growth but as part of the social, economic and developmental growth which is inseparable from and interdependent on the environment.

Plastics in particular, are a significant contributor to many environmental problems and until now they have been a virtually indestructible material. However, the arrival of degradable plastics now provides an opportunity for legislators to encourage their use, thereby mitigating the adverse effects traditionally associated with plastics. All will be beneficiaries – the environment, corporate entities, the country, the nation, its citizens and future generations. Active participation by all stakeholder groups is critical and deliberation must be given to the most effective means by which integration of the social, economic and environmental benefits can be realized.

The nature of the problem

Sustainable disposal of any product requires that its wastes return to the earth and is able to biodegrade. However these products are usually altered by industry and changed as a by-product of other materials thus making it difficult for nature to process the natural course. The products then become an unsustainable problem and simply pollute and litter the land, air and water, becoming a public health (and costly) issue. Plastics, cans and bottles, which are man-made materials, in particular, take a heavy toll on the land, block drains and use up a lot of space in the landfills. In countries like India, plastics have been blamed for deadly flooding which eventually led to a total ban on one-use plastics bags, while other countries have introduced economic disincentives.

Research has shown that commonly used products which are non-biodegradable and scattered as litter take years to break down. Note the following: (1)

Cotton rags 1-5 months
Paper 2-5 months
Rope 3-14 months
Orange peels 6 months
Wool socks 1-5 years
Cigarette butts 1-12 years
Plastic coated paper milk cartoons 5 years
Plastic bags 10 to 20 years
Leather shoes 25 to 40 years
Nylon fabrics 30 to 40 years
Tin cans 50 to 100 years
Aluminum cans 80 to 100 years
Plastic 6 pk drinks holder 450 years
Glass bottles 1 million years
Plastic bottles Indefinite

The published data does not consider conditions where biodegradation cannot occur, and which is actually normally found in landfills or underwater for materials dumped at sea. Typically, conditions of anoxia, lack of moisture or even lack of bacteria, will keep many materials intact for much longer than stated.

These are alarming figures and great cause for concern. Fifty million tons of polythene generated has created a global problem of environmentally nightmarish proportions. Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption are increasing the quantities and variety of environmentally persistent waste at unprecedented rates. In Barbados for example, the plastic bag performs a useful function in aiding garbage disposal, however with scarce resources and controversy over the protected and tourist areas, the growth in plastic bag consumption requires action to combat the anticipated increases in volumes. Inaction risks high costs and should not be accepted.

The organisation’s realisation of the existing problem, what is being done about it

Linking responsibility for the environment to corporate entities offers environmental opportunities to business, not just added costs.

Plastic is a very familiar and useful facet of modern living. It is used in all commercial aspects of life and in all sorts of packaging and household applications. The benefits are low cost, light-weight, strength, transparency, imperviousness to other elements etc. The very properties however, that allow it to be so economical and useful also become a major hazard when it is disposed of. Hidden costs generated by this situation are not internalised either by companies nor the general public directly, but they are an indirect burden in many ways, starting with deterioration of public health, national image, and contingencies such as flooding and death of land and sea animals.

Oxo-biodegradable technology is based on a small amount of non-toxic additive that changes the behaviour of the plastic being introduced into the conventional manufacturing process. The length of time it takes for oxo-biodegradable plastics to degrade can be programmed at the time of manufacture and can be as little as a few months or as long as a few years. The degradation of the plastic starts immediately after manufacture and will accelerate when exposed to heat, light and stress. The process is irreversible and continues until the material has reduced to nothing more that CO2 and water. Therefore, it does not leave fragments of petro-polymers in the soil and is consumed by bacteria and fungi after the additive had reduced the molecular structure to a level that permits living micro-organisms access to the carbon and the hydrogen within. The material then ceases to be a plastic and becomes a food source, a raw material of nature which then disappears into the environment. As oxo-biodegradable bags are thinner than starch-based bags of the same strength, they produce a much smaller tonnage of plastic waste. As they totally degrade, they cease to exist at the end of their programmed life. There is little or no additional cost involved in products made with this technology. Oxo-biodegradable bags are not to be confused with starch based and photodegradable products of the past, as the benefits of lower cost, higher functionality etc. completely differentiate oxo-biodegradable into a separate class of inherently degradable plastic.

The undertaking of the problem and the specific manner(s) through which the problems might be solved

There will always be a need for shops and supermarkets to supply plastic carrier bags and other plastic products to their customers, but there is such inertia in the retail industry that they will continue to supply conventional plastics unless the government implements stringent policies.

In the EU, it will soon be illegal to send organic waste to the landfill. It can no longer be fed to pigs and is usually too wet to be incinerated. The solution may lie in part in composting and possibly methane production.

In addition to the compost, oxo-biodegradable plastic has other useful applications for the agriculture industry. For many years, farmers and flower/plant growers have used plastic sheets to protect their crops and to inhibit weeds. Given no other alternative, this method has worked well. However after crop harvest many thousands of acres are littered with dirty, torn plastic sheets which then have to be cleaned up and disposed of. This can be a very expensive process and creates huge quantities of contaminated waste. A similar situation occurs with liners used to cover banana bunches as pest control. Oxo-biogradable sheets can be programmed at manufacture to degrade soon after the crop harvest. The fragments are then ploughed into the soil where the process of biodegradation is completed and the soil becomes a rich source of carbon for the next crop. The banana growing ACP countries would greatly benefit from this product because on 20th May 2003, the Development and Cooperation Committee of the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Commission not to fund environmentally harmful products. For those banana growers who benefit from the EU’s Special Framework of Assistance, it even more specifically called on the Commission to encourage the use of biodegradable materials in the growing process. These are a few of the changes that have been adopted in some parts of the world.

Out of concern for the global environmental issue, Barbados became a signatory to the United Nations Agenda 21. The Government may want to legislate bans on conventional plastic bags, initiate use limitations, introduce a bag tax or give financial incentives to those who use the more environment-friendly oxo-biodegradable alternatives, this as a similar measure to the one taken by the UK Government a few years ago in respect of the use of unleaded petrol and is now considering for plastics bags as well. Governments of India and Taiwan have banned non-degradable plastic bags. Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, and the city of San Francisco in the United States, have already imposed levies and taxes on non-degradable plastic bags. Other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and China, are preparing to establish taxes on non-degradable plastic bags.

GEPI therefore wants to connect to interest groups to develop policies that will stop environmentally damaging behaviour through regulations and incentives. GEPI feels that the private sector, through both large and small enterprises, can be encouraged to integrate environmental concerns into their decision-making by cooperating with environmental interest groups and promotion of environmental management codes and environmental auditing standards.

Studies show that market-based instruments – those that charge polluters for the damage they do – are generally better than quantitative restrictions. People are the instruments and beneficiaries, as well as the victims, of all development activities. Their active involvement is therefore key to the success of any programme.

An island-wide sample survey in Barbados conducted by telephone interview revealed the following:

  1. 76.4% of the population agreed that there is a problem with the amount of plastic bags used
  2. 29.2% perceiving that there is a problem in their own household
  3. 96.8% indicated they use the free shopping bag for garbage and storage
  4. 80% said that they could reduce the number of bags that they use whilst still disposing of their garbage and adequately maintaining sanitary conditions
  5. 80% indicated their willingness to take their own bag to the supermarket
  6. 75.6% felt that a public education campaign to get Barbadians to use less plastic would be successful.

There seems to be adequate evidence to indicate that overall most people care about their environment and are willing to participate in directives once they are given.

Supporting our statements is the experience in England, Scotland and Ireland (7). Their evaluation considered 8 indicators, such as the amounts of energy, water, waste and litter, resulting in a reduction of 90% in the use of non-degradable plastic check out bags, although there was an increase of 77% in kitchen tidy bags. If the latter are degradable, the positive effects and cost reduction are greater. In the first four months of its introduction, a levy imposed raised 3.5 million Euros, which were directed towards waste management improvements (8). To that end, we are proposing a combination of incentives, such as eliminating levies on degradable bags and establishing disincentives on non-degradable materials, making degradable bags more attractive for all types of uses at similar costs.


Our proposition is then to eliminate any taxes and duties on degradable plastics as a means of encouraging their use over non-degradable plastics where appropriate. Additionally, imposing duties on non-degradable plastics will further discourage their use and the hidden costs generated as described herein.

Information Resources

  1. DFID – Achieving Sustainability
  2. Internet – worldwide wiseguide
  3. Government Solid Waste Project Unit (SWPU) Brochure
  4. The company briefing note on degradable plastics
  5. Brochure for the Ministry of Health on their Solid Waste Management Programme Initiative
  6. Meeting with individuals from environmental groups
  7. Proposed Plastic Bag Levy – Extended Impact Assessment; Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department.
  8. Plastic Shopping Bags – Analysis of Levies and Environmental Impacts. Dept. of the Environment and Heritage, De