By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A Bahamian restaurant operator yesterday said it had been moving towards eco-friendly packaging long before the government’s decision to ban Styrofoam and single-use plastics.
Gandhi Pinder, Bamboo Shack’s vice-president of marketing and public relations, told Tribune Business: “We began the process in earnest in 2018, and continue to move in that direction with the goal of being fully eco-friendly.
“Although the Bamboo Grill House has just been added to our group of companies, it will be the first to be fully biodegradable in a matter of days. In our Sapodilla restaurant our coasters are biodegradable even though it’s a fine dining restaurant. At our Bamboo Shack location in Miami we use biodegradable items as well.”
Ms Pinder spoke as the government yesterday released the Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill 2019, which is designed to give legal effect to the drive to ban single-use plastics in The Bahamas.
Businesses will be able to possess and sell prohibited plastics to customers up to June 30, 2020 for a fee of not less than 25 cents and not more than $1 per bag, excluding VAT, according to the Bill in a bid to ease the transition.
Single-use plastic foodware is defined as styrofoam cups, styrofoam plates and other similar styrofoam foodware used to contain food, plastic knives, plastic forks, plastic spoons, and plastic straws.
Ms Pinder added: “It’s a gradual process, but definitely the goal is to move toward 100 percent eco-friendly packaging. There are so many different aspects with our different brands, and so many different levels to our approach to being eco-friendly. We want the government to see us as a partner. We consider ourselves a responsible corporate citizen and that should be reflected in every aspect of our business.”
Janairo Turnquest, its chief financial officer, said: “Long before this became a mandate by the government this was our focus.” The company now has 12 restaurants, with the Bamboo Shack chain set to celebrate 30 years in existence next year.
Ms Pinder said Bamboo Shack has been zero trans fat “for decades” and continues to push for healthier food options, while supporting local farmers and the surrounding communities.
Ash Henderson, marketing director for Restaurant Services, the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Burger King and Dunkin Donuts franchise operator, told Tribune Business: “We’ve been following the issue closely, and have been working with both the ministry and the respective franchise support teams for each of our brands to ensure that we’re fully compliant once the legislation takes effect.
“The Quick Service Restaurant industry is uniquely affected by this type of legislation, as the majority of our business is conducted through either take-out or a drive-through which necessitates disposable packaging.
“Thankfully, as The Bahamas is joining many other countries around the world with initiatives to reduce plastic waste, it appears that we will be able to source alternative solutions for the affected items. There are certainly increased costs associated with these alternative solutions, but we will have a clearer understanding of the impact of those costs as we near implementation.”
Businesses will be allowed to sell compostable single use plastic bags at prices between 25 cents to $1, excluding VAT. They will not be able to sell them to customers at the point of sale and, if they do, the sale of the bag must be separately stated on the receipt and identified as a “checkout bag fee”.
Companies will be allowed to keep the fees collected for the sale of these bag, but a record must be kept of the number of bags supplied during the reporting year, along with the gross and net proceeds of the sale.
Failure to keep these records will result in a fine up to $2,000, and failure to supply a copy of the record to the Ministry of the Environment carries a fine up to $1,000.