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Plastic reduction initiative bags mixed reactions

- consumers seen as hypocrites for stance against environmental cause
Moreme points to a campaign poster for the WorldHouse Caribbean environmental initiative to reduce the use of plastics in the Virgin Islanders. Photo: VINO
A reusable bag issued to customers of Bobby's supermarket. Photo: VINO
A reusable bag issued to customers of Bobby's supermarket. Photo: VINO
A cashier at RiteWay supermarket fills paper bags with goods bought by a customer. Photo: VINO
A cashier at RiteWay supermarket fills paper bags with goods bought by a customer. Photo: VINO
A customer finds an innovative way of using the reusable bags provided by Bobby's Supermarket. Photo: VINO
A customer finds an innovative way of using the reusable bags provided by Bobby's Supermarket. Photo: VINO
RiteWay Supervisor, Petra Benjamin, said “It’s a good idea, but you know, some of us don’t like changes.” Photo: VINO
RiteWay Supervisor, Petra Benjamin, said “It’s a good idea, but you know, some of us don’t like changes.” Photo: VINO
A customer takes her goods from the supermarket in a box. Photo: VINO
A customer takes her goods from the supermarket in a box. Photo: VINO
Another customer, 'Lovie', she didn’t have enough money to pay for the increased cost of plastic bags. Photo: VINO
Another customer, 'Lovie', she didn’t have enough money to pay for the increased cost of plastic bags. Photo: VINO
Another customer leaves the RiteWay at Pasea with a fabric reusable bag. Photo: VINO
Another customer leaves the RiteWay at Pasea with a fabric reusable bag. Photo: VINO
Customers at One Mart took their goods in boxes back to their vehicles where they off loaded shopping carts. Photo: VINO
Customers at One Mart took their goods in boxes back to their vehicles where they off loaded shopping carts. Photo: VINO
Customers at RiteWay in Road Town using a reusable bag. Photo: VINO
Customers at RiteWay in Road Town using a reusable bag. Photo: VINO
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – A recent environmental initiative to reduce the use of plastics in the Virgin Islands has produced an expectedly mixed bag of reactions from consumers and retail operators over the past week since its introduction.

The initiative was dubbed ‘Reuse Your Bags’ and introduced by WorldHouse Caribbean (WHC) on March 11, 2013 at several wholesale and retail supermarkets around the Territory. It attempts to reduce the use of plastics through the implementation of a 15cents surcharge on plastic bags at checkout counters.

Consumers are encouraged to shop with reusable bags instead of using plastic bags which are not considered biodegradable. Many supermarkets offer consumers the option of having a free paper bag instead of paying for the plastic bag; most offer a reusable bag which now comes at a nominal cost of around $2.00 after being distributed for free previously by some supermarkets.

One outspoken cashier at AValue supermarket, Moreme, has described the reaction of many consumers who are against the initiative as hypocritical.

“First of all, you’re doing it for the earth,” she said, “…but these people are acting like if the stores are the ones profiting (the most).” She conceded that the stores have to get something, but offered that the main focus is for consumers to bring their own bags in promoting efforts at saving the earth.

“Before this started to happen, I used to shop in St Thomas all the time, so when I see them doing it, I said ‘but Tortola’s so late and so behind’, in America you put your bags in the same cart and you pack it in your car, in St Thomas you pack it in your car, in Puerto Rico you pack it in your car,” the cashier disclosed.

She continued, “All I see is ignorance. Why wouldn’t you want to assist in (the initiative)?” she questioned while pointing out all the glaring posters that described the benefits. “You can’t go to St Thomas and get these (plastic bags)… it’s only here in Tortola…”

“They’re complaining about the cost, they’re complaining about the reason, they’re complaining about every single thing to do with it… things that don’t make sense,” Moreme said.

According to the cashier, she has been able to get consumers to buy reusable bags as well as the stubborn ones, to pay for plastic bags because she “don’t play that”. “When they come and they have to be debating with me,” she stated, “I have to explain, this is not about you, this is not about the shop, this is about the earth… I say the bag is for putting a stop to what’s wrong already.”

Moreme explained that some consumers are even taking their goods out of the store in their hands or boxes where these are available. Moreme felt that some consumers are even ignoring the posters and signs placed around supermarkets about the green initiative.

She felt that consumers didn’t know the ‘resources and reasons’ behind the initiative and suggested that the persons behind the programme needed to do a better job of advertising their cause.

One consumer who has been using the reusable bags, Harlan Vanterpool, felt it was ‘a good initiative in the right direction’. He didn’t need to be convinced about getting on board since he had lived in the United States before where the practice is commonplace. “I would expect at some point we would have to have this kind of initiative being made anyway.”

Regarding consumers who couldn’t see the benefits of the initiative, Harlan said, “I think they haven’t realised the extent that littering is a problem, because we’re paying a lot of money to clean up a country where if people would stop throwing and littering, we’d be a lot better off.”

He agreed with Moreme that more awareness should be created for the initiative, “I think that is a problem with most things that are started, they are good initiatives but the time frame in which they are introduced… they just have to do some more drives for the same (reusable) bags and more giveaways.”

According to Harlan, “What happened is a lot of the initiatives leading up to this were done a couple of months ago, so I think they need to do some new ones now that it’s on board… you just have to get used to it, just like me.”

One supervisor at RiteWay Supermarket in Road Town, Petra Benjamin, said, “It’s a good idea, but you know, some of us don’t like changes.” Though Petra also practices using the reusable bags, she expressed that it is more convenient to have plastic bags when storing certain items such as meat or vegetables in the refrigerator at home.

She disclosed that several customers have walked away in protest of the surcharge, leaving their goods at the checkout counter while others have requested boxes and made use of the paper bags available at the store.

Meanwhile, another consumer at the RiteWay Supermarket in Road Town, ‘Lovie’ said she didn’t have enough money to pay for the increased cost of plastic bags and did not prefer the paper bags since the plastic bags were easier to carry. She also felt that it was more convenient for persons with vehicles to carry reusable bags than for persons who had to depend on others to transport them. “I don’t like it, that’s a wrong choice they’re making,” Lovie said.

There have been several reported confrontations with cashiers at various supermarkets but none of these to date have gotten violent, since situations have been diffused by onlookers or the cashiers themselves.

When contacted for comments on the initiative, co-founder of WHC, Sophia M. Emberson-Bain suggested that a press release may be forthcoming from the non-profit group shortly to answer questions posed by reporters. WHC was also co-founded by Dalan Vanterpool, son of Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Mark H. Vanterpool.

The initiative was introduced after talks between WHC, Green VI and several retailers and wholesalers including Buck's Wholesale, Rosy's Supermarket, OneMart Supermarket, Road Town Wholesale Trading, Bobby's Supermarket, AValue Supermarket, Quomar Trading and Supa Valu.

WHC has described the fee as being of a symbolic nature and one which seeks to raise awareness about the use of plastics and to ultimately reduce plastic waste in the Virgin Islands.

According to an article in the Scientific American published online about a report issued in 2009, “Plastics are very long-lived products that could potentially have service over decades, and yet our main use of these lightweight, inexpensive materials are as single-use items that will go to the garbage dump within a year, where they’ll persist for centuries,” Richard Thompson, lead editor of the report, said in an interview.

The article further stated that evidence is mounting that the chemical building blocks that make plastics so versatile are the same components that might harm people and the environment. And its production and disposal contribute to an array of environmental problems, too.

56 Responses to “Plastic reduction initiative bags mixed reactions”

  • ann (18/03/2013, 08:46) Like (9) Dislike (21) Reply
    i went to a store they told me 15 cents for a plastic bad and i left my good on the damm aint paying no dame 15 cents
    • Caramel (18/03/2013, 09:19) Like (12) Dislike (1) Reply
      so who you hurting
    • Cheap Ann (18/03/2013, 09:38) Like (6) Dislike (2) Reply
      cheap much. The boxes are free
    • >>>>>>>>> (18/03/2013, 09:43) Like (8) Dislike (2) Reply


    • dumb (18/03/2013, 10:06) Like (1) Dislike (11) Reply
      you have to be an a** hole , plus you sound very smart too
    • Priceless (18/03/2013, 20:32) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply
      U could be a A#@ and a half who hungry now aint u? that aint prove a damn thing cuz someone else bought them same items and eating good now. How u feel now dumb a#@.
    • Crank Shaft (19/03/2013, 09:38) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      What is wrong with you carrying your own bag? You sound so foolish. I am sure you probably go Cost u less in St. Thomas to shop, and you either carry your own bag, or rummage through a maze of cartoon boxes that are most times not adequate to pack frozen foods and groceries. You need to take your head out of the sand and get moving with the changing times, because whether you do or you don't THINGS ARE NOT GOING TO STAY THE SAME, so you will be left behind the eight ball.
  • foxy (18/03/2013, 09:12) Like (0) Dislike (10) Reply
    the issue is how it was done without warning....
  • . (18/03/2013, 09:20) Like (12) Dislike (25) Reply
    we are looking like a real third world country now..Thankx to mark's son
  • Bag Lady (18/03/2013, 09:25) Like (23) Dislike (4) Reply
    This initiative is so phony! The plastic bags which was once given to us by the supermarkets were reused by the majority of people as trash can liners. The supporters of the Supermarkets not supplying plastic carrier bags are saying that we should not be using them as trash bin liners because when they are burned at Pockwood Pond they are harmful to the environment but guess what the only thing this initiative has done is Fatten the pockets of the participating supermarkets, because they are charging you for the carrier bags now and they are also selling trash bin liners! The cost of goods at a supermarket factors in their expenses and since they stop giving you the bags with your purchase I have not seen a reduction in my grocery bill however little. Nothing is free. Those bags were NEVER FREE we always paid for them with the cost of goods!

    I do feel we should protect our environment but this carrier bag thing while a good start should not have been the first thing they tackled. The should have pressured the government to seek about recycling opportunities instead of burning everything. They should have gone about banning the importation of Styrofoam. Is Styrofoam not harmful as well? Yet these supermarkets that sell food sell it to you in Styrofoam containers instead of eco friendly containers. There are so many Styrofoam boxes and cups, plastic bottles and aluminum soda cans littered all over the place. I see them more than the bags yet these have not been banned.

    I would have respected the supermarkets more if they completely got rid off all the plastic carrier bags and if they want to charge for plastic bags they should only be allowed to import the biodegradable ones. I have purchased reusable bags and will gladly tote them to the store with me now. Also please remember that you should periodically wash these reusable bags and should probably have a few that are designated for meats only, and a few that are for produce only etc. only so as to avoid the risk of cross contamination and making you or your family sick.

    Instead of getting the carrier bag that you have in fact paid for by purchasing groceries and used to reuse as a trash bin liner, you now have to purchase trash bin liners. So tell me WHC and other BVI Environmentalist how is this benefiting the environment? While I hope that the new additional fee for the carrier bags would go to a recycling initiative I fear that WHC has only aided the Supermarkets in adding more revenue to their coffers.

    WHC I hope your next environmental initiative is better that your current one.
    • open wide (18/03/2013, 20:36) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Take the good; and discard the bad.
      - As for the 'ugly', the jury is still out!

  • Niccolo (18/03/2013, 10:10) Like (10) Dislike (1) Reply
    It is a good initiative. But why not be clear about how the 15 cent will be given back to the public? What charities will benefit? And whilst we are at it, why not attack those dreaded plastic bottles found all over the islands?
    Nevertheless it is a good start though.
    • ? (18/03/2013, 11:14) Like (2) Dislike (7) Reply
      How about we just not buy plastic bags period, and use our reusable bags or free boxes? Then, there is no 15 cents in existence to debate at all. And why does the 15 cents have to go back to the public again? It's so insignificant. Let's do some quick math. Even if the stores sold a whopping 1,000 plastic bags at 15 cents each, 1,000 x .15 = $150. You really think the stores would go through this much hell for a measly $150? It's clearly not about profits. For the little bit of money they could just at 1 cent to 15 items in the store and not one of us would notice. Look at the greater good. Let's save the country and end this frivolous conversation.
    • money (18/03/2013, 12:35) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
      If one Supermarket sells 30,000 bags, that's one plastic bag to every man woman and child in the BVI, they would make $4500. LOL. das money? plus when they say 15cent per bag they are actually doubling it. it's not per single bag.
      • One Tart (18/03/2013, 15:56) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
        Don't blame the super market Blame the NDP for helping push (owner of supermarket) this deal through and supporting it.
  • diane (18/03/2013, 10:41) Like (6) Dislike (4) Reply
    the plastic bags are killing our beaches and we fighting to keep them?? What a ting.. supermarkets give away and give cheap price for resuable bags. alot of people got them ... need to walk with them and stop making noise. if you don't want to pay 15 cents, just walk with your bag and stop fightin it up
  • They care about making more money... (18/03/2013, 10:46) Like (14) Dislike (6) Reply
    If these businesses truly cared about the environment they would not be charging 15 cents for the plastic bags; they would bring back the big brown paper bags. They are only interested in making an extra 15 cents on the bags. They are a bunch of hypocrites.
  • John (18/03/2013, 10:54) Like (7) Dislike (61) Reply
    This is a great and long overdue move for the BVI! Like most things, the negative people and things get the most attention. I was in stores this weekend and saw loads of people prouldly bringing their reusable bags or just using a free box. It will take a little time for people to get used the change, but life will go one just fine. Interestingly, many shoppers without vehicles are saying the PREFER THE REUSABLE BAGS since they are stronger than the flimsy bags and don't cut into your fingers when walking. Contray to popular belief around here, STORES ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO GIVE US FREE PLASTIC BAGS. It's the same way radio stations don't have to give us free radios. The 15 cents is irrelevant. Bring your own bag then it's a non-issue...which is the whole point here! Let finally come together and do something good for our BVI.
  • Changing Times (18/03/2013, 11:17) Like (6) Dislike (67) Reply
    It is a good initiative, it helps our environment. No matter if the supermarkets charge 5, 10 or 15 cents, there will be backlash from the public due to change. The charge is a collective effort that will have a profound effect on our environment think about it. Since starting the initiative last week, the difference between how many people acutally bought plastic bags compared to how many people that would have been given plastic bags by supermarkets? The effects of just a few days, imagine a year, supermarkets will not be making a whole lot of money from this initiatives because ideally the public would be more prepared, our environment will not have much plastic bags!
  • Bag Fan (18/03/2013, 11:57) Like (4) Dislike (76) Reply
    What is the issue here? In many European Countries you have to pay between .08 & .015 cent Euros = 0.10 - .20 cent US. The supermarkets are not getting the bags for free. They have to buy them and pay freight and duty. So where you all coming from about donating to charity?? Ever since Riteway introduced a 10cent credit for each your own bag you bring, I carry a whole set in my car. 10c sounds very little, but if you shop a lot it quickly adds up to 5.00$
  • nonsense (18/03/2013, 12:25) Like (14) Dislike (2) Reply
    If we have to pay for plastic bags.....then I suggest they stop import plastic bottle drinks.....
  • Vance (18/03/2013, 12:28) Like (5) Dislike (2) Reply
    well one thing i can say is she got the right name. Moreme. lol
    • fat man (18/03/2013, 15:22) Like (0) Dislike (4) Reply
  • wise-up (18/03/2013, 12:43) Like (12) Dislike (0) Reply
    my only question into whoes pocket this money going
  • ??? (18/03/2013, 12:54) Like (5) Dislike (2) Reply
    Why can't they use paper bags instead of plastic? Years ago, it was mostly paper use by supermarkets for goods. Let's go back to that, at least the for the people that don't want to use reusable or plastic bags. Let the supermarkets bring in paper bags instead of plastic.
  • zoe (18/03/2013, 12:57) Like (1) Dislike (4) Reply
    Get rid of the corrupt ndp
  • Lb (18/03/2013, 12:58) Like (6) Dislike (1) Reply
    If the Supermarkets were really serious, they would get rid of the plastic bags period! Perhaps bring back the paper bags like long ago.

    And if they were really serious, they would not be using styrofoam in their delis or to pack their meats. They would be going to their suppliers and forcing them to be environmentally friendly as well instead of dictating to us. Why dont they try to dictate to their suppliers too?

    Are the supermarkets going to stop selling garbage bags made of plastic too? How about plastic cups and eating utensils? Perhaps they will no longer sell the sarran wrap or sandwich bags.

    Give me a break. Just bring in some paper bags and cut out that 15c nonsense.
    • vince (18/03/2013, 14:00) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      would you buy the paper bags?
      • Lb (18/03/2013, 22:55) Like (10) Dislike (0) Reply
        Buy it for what? Why the hell should we have to pay for any damn bags period? The prices are already way to high! Bring in paper bags and get rid of the plastic bags altogether!

        I am all for saving the environment, but putting a charge on the plastic bags just seems hypocritical!
  • @@@@@ (18/03/2013, 13:08) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    The BVI is not a copy cat anyway...just want to do what them see in the states or in teh UK..Yaaawn
  • Wonderwoman (18/03/2013, 13:12) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    Keep the BVI beautiful... keep it clean... yes 15 cent might be annoying at first but like everything else that go on here.... it will soon be 9-days talk.... forgotten!... and we will all move on, progressively, remembering to bring our reusable bags with us in the car and in our purses... sorry but u know its true...
  • free (18/03/2013, 13:49) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    We need the UK to help in this regards.
  • OPIE (18/03/2013, 14:26) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    • win (21/03/2013, 06:52) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      We have heard this before and we are anxiously awaiting action on the talk
  • Me (18/03/2013, 19:47) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    BRING BACK THE BROWN PAPER BAGS!!! The supermarkets are taking us for a ride. Now they are barely employing bag packers, and we are expected to pack our own bags. The cheap bags they sell are ripping apart in front of our very eyes.
    This is highway robbery to the highest extent, and to think that those in high places approved it!!
  • solution (18/03/2013, 21:10) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    The simple solution to this argument is walk with ur own reusable bags then u don't have to worry about paying the 15cents. I sometimes ask myself why do ppl in this place make everything to be a problem and always making an issue out of nothing. None of these initiatives are to good for the BVI, some countries are already doing the same thing and its some of these same countries some of us go to and abide by their laws so why is it not a good thing for the BVI as well?
  • Wonderwoman (18/03/2013, 23:36) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    To all of you people talking about Paper bags.... I shallinform you since you do not know - Paper bags ARE NOT a sustainable solution... that's why they have not been in use over the past years... paper bags have led to too much deforestation in parts where they are produced... it is not and will not be a viable solution to being more environmentally conscious so stop trying to plug them.. truth be told we need to replace bad habits with good ones .... bring your bag to the market and it will soon become like routine..
  • lower (19/03/2013, 07:22) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    The look on her face tells a whole story....
  • Paige Summer (19/03/2013, 08:11) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Anything for the environment is good for me. I have no problem buying shopping bags and taking them to the store this is small issue thing what all the noise about. I charge the government with looking into a recycle system here in the BVI.
  • ToBe (19/03/2013, 11:45) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    With all the debate about the harm to the environment from the plastic bags, I have not heard much about educating the population on the benefits of not littering. It is not only plastic bags, that contribute to environmental damage and nasty-looking surroundings. Throwing cans, plastic and glass bottles, wrappers, paper bags, foam trays and cups; beds, sofas, refrigerators (you get the picture) – all these things that should go into garbage bins or some other site for disposal do not belong at the sides of the roads. It is also quite disgusting to see these items strewn on people’s property by passers-by. A culture of cleanliness needs to be revived in the present population.

    If the message about recycling was taken seriously from years ago, the BVI could have been well-ahead by now. The problem is not with the plastic bags which the shops supply their customers to carry purchases. The problem is with littering, which needs to be seriously addressed in this Territory. Tackle that problem, and the solutions to many other ills will fall into place.
  • Sue (19/03/2013, 17:58) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Well said I MUST SAY,Tobe
  • cave man (19/03/2013, 23:16) Like (0) Dislike (1) Reply
    the food very heavy in those bags please bring back the plastic bags
  • Former Skeptic (20/03/2013, 11:00) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    I like many was initially outraged with the introduction of the reusable bags and not to mention the fifteen cents charge for plastics bags that is now required at supermarkets. But I implore you not to knock it until you try it. I was amazed at how much easier it was as the reusable bags that I have can hold much more than the plastic bags which means less stress trying to carry as many bags at a time. I was an instant convert after my first experience. I was a bit bothered by the fact that I had to pack my own bags but then in hindsight, it gives me the opportunity to pack my grocery just the way I want, properly organized unlike how some of the baggers would just throw everything into the same bag. Paper bags had their place when we had them but fell short when those handles left painful lines in our hands or burst on the way out of the supermarket. One thing that is garaunteed in life is change and if it is for the better, I don't see why we are having such difficulty embracing it.
  • go group (20/03/2013, 20:02) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    Stay strong and resolute my dear people on this project. You were always a strong advocate for the saving the earth. Do like me, take a break, go and come again.

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