THE village of Castara was commended by Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) for taking a stance against the use of plastic and Styrofoam. The village, on the northern side of the island, was praised for taking the lead in sustaining and protecting the environment without legislation.
Businesses in the village have recently moved from plastic and Styrofoam products to environmentally friendly and compostable food products as part of their aim to make a community global impact. Last year the village hosted a number of environmental workshops, including a community solid and liquid waste reduction project and an introduction to alternative cost-effective biodegradable products.
In a release FFOS further called on the government to take note of the move made by the Castara village council, businesses and residents and play its part by implementing mandatory recycling programmes for residential and industrial estates, legislate standards for food packaging containers being manufactured and imported and establish facilities to do scientific analyses and certification.
Other suggestions made by FFOS include: “Encouraging an informed an empowered civil service and TT Bureau of Standards (TTBS) to enforce safety standards and regulations, embracing public participation and hold stakeholder consultations to explore a way forward in developing alternatives for single-use plastics and Styrofoam and removing customs duties exemption on ‘biodegradable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ food packaging that contain high levels of fluorine and provide incentives/subsidies to our local manufacturers producing safe, eco-friendly food packaging.”
FFOS said once plastics can be collected and recycled, this will reduce the volume of plastics entering watercourses, rivers and oceans.
“Internationally, questions have been raised about ‘biodegradable’ labels on plastic bags and food containers which encourage naive assumptions that switching to biodegradable plastics could reduce plastic pollution and that it’s safer for the environment. FFOS has dug deeper and is concerned about what we have found...that Styrofoam/ plastic food packaging alternatives can create new risks to public health.”
FFOS said a report by the University of Plymouth International Marine Litter Research Unit discovered plastic products ladled biodegradable,"oxo-biodegradable" and compostable don’t degrade even after three years. The report concluded it is not clear that biodegradable plastic can help reduce marine litter, but instead will encourage littering, since users will be misled into believing the product will degrade. Ultimatelythis makes ocean pollution worse.
Additionally the lethal chemicals per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were discovered in many “biodegradable” products.
The release also said, “Earlier this year, the Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI) discovered that a number of replacement biodegradable products that are also being currently imported into Trinidad tested positive for high-levels of fluorine.”
"To date fluorine-filled products continue to be widely used in food packaging products, and according to BNSI, heat and grease from our foods can increase the availability of PFAS in our foods. PFAS chemicals have been linked to cancer, developmental issues, compromised immune systems and other health problems.
“Studies have also shown that these chemicals in disposable food packaging do not break down in landfills, but eventually leach out and contaminate water resources and crops,”
The FFOS said these products with high levels of PFAS/fluorine are being imported into TT and used widely in the food industry without any legislative or regulatory oversight.