Demise of plastic bag draws near as campaign takes off

| 23/04/2010

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island science & nature news(CNS): Since the local environmental organization Cayman BECOME launched its campaign to make the plastic bag a thing of the past the Green Team Network has been getting out and about to ensure its demise will come sooner rather than later. With Cayman shoppers using some 12 million plastic bags annually and no official ban on plastic bags in place, the team is doing its best to persuade shoppers to use alternative means of carrying their shopping, such as re-usable shopping bags, helped by the supermarkets’ promise to introduce a fee for bags by June.

“The amount of solid waste we generate and the lack of recycling options are among the network’s biggest environmental concerns. To tackle this problem, the decision was taken to target the excessive use of plastic bags,” explained Alee Fa’amoe, Chief Operating Officer at Deloitte Cayman, who helped set up the network with the Department of Environment.
The DoE and the Green Team Network are promoting reusable shopping bags at supermarkets. Foster’s Food Fair, Hurley’s and Kirk Supermarket have also agreed to discourage the use of plastic bags by charging a five cent fee per single-use plastic bag – an initiative that will start this June
“A similar fee introduced in January in Washington DC has already reduced monthly plastic bag use from an average of 22.5 million to 3 million. We hope to see similar results in Cayman,” said DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie.
Minister for Environment Mark Scotland was present as the local activists launched the campaign in stores.
 “Most people don’t think twice about the plastic bags that hold their groceries, but the fact is, they add significantly to our already overflowing landfill,” said the minister.  “Charging for plastic bags is a strategy that is successfully used elsewhere. What is more, the plastic bag charge will be used for local environmental initiatives and finding more environmentally-responsible options to other supermarket packaging.”
So far Cayman has no legislation in place to protect its environment, and with no government recycling programmes to reduce waste it is down to people power to encourage the community to think about their environment and the damage the waste we generate can cause.
In other countries legislative efforts have had a great impact. In Uganda and Bangladesh all plastic bags have simply been banned. Taiwan, Kenya and South Africa have introduced charges on the use of plastic bags. China announced a nationwide ban on stores distributing free plastic bags from 1 June 2008. Thereafter, supermarkets were required to charge for plastic bags. Ireland now levies a 15 cent per bag charge, which reduced plastic bag usage by up to 95 percent. In America, San Francisco became the first city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets and pharmacies. Several UK urban centres banned plastic shopping bags,but the ban is not yet nationwide.
Plastic bags cause the deaths of over 100,000 sea turtles and other marine animals every year; animals can mistake them for food. The manufacture of plastic bags adds tons of carbon emissions into the air annually. Approximately 60-100 million barrels of oil are needed to make the world’s plastic bags each year. Most plastic bags take over 400 years to biodegrade. Some figures suggest that plastic bags may take over 1000 years to break down.
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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hogwash indeed?!

    Now do not get me wrong here, I simply ADORE reusable shopping bags! But, while I am sensitive to the environmental issues involved and I myself try to use reusable bags as often as I can remember to carry them along on a shopping trip, I am quite appalled that BECOME is not a bit more responsible in the way their goals are being implemented. It is not unlike local activists to see their agenda furthered with little regard to focusing on the bigger picture and the most pressing local environmental concerns as a priority.

    For BECOME to promote this "eliminate the plastic bag thing" without marketing a truly holistic approach is horrid public relations (not that the more rabid environmental groups really give a damn about public relations anyway), BECOME is apparently not about to become an exception here.

    Mr. Scotland’s comment about plastic shopping bags adding "significantly" to the landfill is absurd and simply false. In my garbage those little white bags compress to little more than the size of an icecube. By weight and by volume the little white bags were never a "significant" amount of my weekly refuse.

    I do not know where Mr. Scotland got his data from but such misinformation certainly adds significantly to the volume of B.S. in this country. Earth to Mr. Scotland: Pleasethink before you issue a potentially irresponsible or false statement. (BTW: Chuckie used to be guilty of the same thing.) This is also an environmental issue as I dislike my environment cluttered with verbal rubbish!

    I would think that trying some positive reinforcement would be a nice touch. Why not do like many merchants in the USA and Europe and offer FREE reusable bags? I realise that such a programme may be costly for the comparatively tiny volume merchants here sell, but a viable programme would be for merchants to initially give away the reusable bags for a limited time to customers buying over a certain dollar amount. That way people will have a good supply of reusable bags once the plastic ones are phased out.

    I think the government should be paying more than lip-service to the issue and be pro-active for a change. (Now THAT would be something, eh!) Since, according to the government we will be helping them minimise impact on the landfill and thus saving them money (a "significant" amount according to Mr. Scotland, right?) I would certainly expect that steps have been taken to ensure that importation of the reusable bags is duty-free. Is this the case? And perhaps government should subsidise the free reusable bag initial giveaway?

    If stores start charging a fee for plastic bags and there is no system is put into place to account for and collect the proceeds to ensure that the money is indeed funding environmental issues, then I am going to be damn angry at BECOME, The Green Team and Mr. Scotland! And I am going to be even more angry at Kirkconnel’s, Foster’s and Hurley’s!!!  The last thing we need is for merchants to use this issue to make more profit. So, could someone reading this please tell us what is being done to ensure proper collection, accounting for and channelling of these funds to worthy environmental causes?

    A couple of other things that have not been mentioned: There is a greatly increased opportunity for shoplifting that merchants elsewhere in the world have experienced with reusable bags. Has this been considered? I hope so because it is a fact. I hope the merchants will institute proper security measures in order to minimise the risk, otherwise they will have to tack on yet higher prices to compensate for lost merchandise. The increased personnel man-hours for checking every bag going out will be an added cost to merchants. How is this added cost going to be absorbed?

    Additionally, grocery industry groups in the USA and Europe report significantly increased packaging time associated with reusable bags. I hope the supermarkets will do the "responsible thing" and not pass on the added costs to the consumer. (Sure, riiight! And pigs fly, eh?)

    Another issue I have with this campaign is that it is SO like environmental groups to "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel": If you look at the total bulk of packaging materials that are a part of the average week’s groceries I do not think that eliminating those little white bags is going to make any really significant positive contribution to improving our environment. If you will notice, it is the pre-processed, "junkier" foods that have the most environmentally unfriendly packaging, so why not tackle that issue at the start?

    I greatly lowered the volume of my "bad" garbage by going to a healthier diet consisting of more fresh foods and less packaged stuff. It would be of double benefit for BECOME and the green boyz to take a holistic approach and advocate skipping all the brightly packaged junky food and eating a better diet. Now THAT would be a major accomplishment of benefit to the health and longevity of all Caymanians. But if the truth be known, I’ll wager if I took a look into the pantries, cabinets and refrigerators of the BECOME group and its minions, I would probably find a vast store of brigthly packaged processed "junky" food. And if I looked into their garages I would probably find more than one carbon-emission-spewing vehicle.

    Something that we have not been told is that most standard woven reusable polypropylene bags are NOT biodegradable. They are recyclable but we do not have recycling here in the Cayman Islands.

    I also take exception to a few things stated in the "FAQ" page of Cayman BECOME. ( The most common woven poly plastic reusable bag will not last "for years". Is is my experience that if you keep them in your car and expose them to heat and sunlight, their lifespan is pretty short before they rip and your groceries are on the ground on the way to your car.

    A huge public relations blunder – and one that I bristle at – is the idea that, should I forget my reusable bag, I will be charged a fee for plastic bags to carry basic necessities like my groceries while wealthy tourists can carry out their diamonds and Rolex watches from the duty-free shops in quite heavy gauge plastic bags and no fee is charged. Hmmm???!! Not good! I say start with luxury-purchase use of plastic bags at the outset or do NOT expect my support for your groups aims because in this case I think your priorities are a bit twisted!

    The BECOME page says "We hope that other retailers will be encouraged to try switching away from plastic when they see this."  You "hope"??? Please come back into earth orbit! I seriously doubt that Kirk Freeport will be phasing out plastic bags anytime soon.

    I guess it is ok for a turtle to be choked by a plastic bag as long as the bag in question used to contain Gucci rather than zucchini!

    There are a couple things BECOME and I agree on – and they are some of the reasons why I LOVE the reusable bags as much I despise those flimsy white plastic bags: They are stronger and have a nice square shape that has some "backbone" and ability to keep my groceries from spilling out all over my trunk, and they are easier to carry. Also, with the larger size of the reusables I like the fewer trips from my vehicle when it comes to unloading my groceries when I get home. I do support using reusable bags, however, I also belive all facets of such an issue as this should come to light and not just the agenda-promoting propaganda of a special interest group, which is why I am posting this.

    To keep my reusable bags in pristine shape and so they are not "droopy" I like to wash, starch and press them when they get soiled. I am pretty sure there are environmental costs tinvolved with such maintenance too.  However, studies show that without proper sanitary procedures the reusable bags put users at increased risk for exposure to food poisoning. Something that proponents of reusables seem to overlook warning us of so that we may be mindful to keep our "green bags" sanitary.

    Personally I think BECOME and the Green Team would be making a far better contribution if they became the leading activists for instituting a recycling programme here. And do that now! If they would be pro-active in the implementation of incentives for more eco-friendly vehicles, that would be a BIG plus as far as real impact. Or how about eliminating Mount Trashmore? If they can accomplish some really important stuff and get their priorities straight, then they will gain some credibility with me, right now I consider BECOME to be a flash-in-the-pan initiative with a narrow agenda, poor public relations savvy, and little regard for, or ability to, effectively address the bigger picture and tackle the weighty and most important environmental issues facing the country. Please prove me wron

    • Cayman Become says:

      The Corporate Green Team Network, which is running the Cayman Become campaign, wishes to respond to a number of points made in this comment in order to clarify the aims of this campaign and the information behind it.

      First, we recognize that tackling the issue of plastic bag use in the Cayman Islands is, as you rightly point out, only a very small component of the total solid waste management issues that the Cayman Islands face. However, we are strong believers of the maxim “you have to start somewhere”. Reducing plastic bag use is a baby step in the grand scheme of things, but one that can make a real difference and one that we hope to use to mobilize our government and community to do more. Most importantly, it is a step through which each individual can make their mark, improve our environment and adopt sustainable habits – reducing and reusing waste is equally, if not more, important than recycling, and this responsibility rests on each of us as good citizens.


      On our website at we encourage the public to adopt more sustainable lifestyles, with switching to reusable bags being just the first step. With over 12 million single use plastic bags being used and subsequently discarded a year in Grand Cayman, this is not such an insignificant step to take. We encourage consumers to become smarter, by also thinking more about all packaging that comes with their weekly shop and to choose options with less packaging where possible.


      The benefits of reusable bags are numerous, as you point out, and you are of course correct in your comment that most reusable bags of the non-woven polypropylene kind are not biodegradable, and at this time, unfortunately, cannot be recycled in the Cayman Islands. The environmental benefits of reusable bags outweigh using single use plastic bags however, precisely because you can use them over and over again – and thus prevent the use of plastic bags.


      On average, one can fit around three plastic bags’ worth of groceries into a standard reusable shopping bag,thus avoiding the use of three plastic bags every time you bring your reusable one. The environmental benefits therefore increase the longer and more frequently you use the bags and, contrary to your experiences, the experiences of many people we have spoken to as well as our own, demonstrate these bags do last for years. It is therefore far better to throw away one reusable bag every 1-2 years, than it is to throw away 6 plastic bags per week, as the volume of plastic waste is much reduced.


      Cayman Become has also ordered a supply of campaign-branded reusable bags which we will be giving out for free at supermarkets on June 12th, once the charge for plastic bags has been introduced. The bags have been funded through sponsorship for the campaign. The supermarkets will also be running promotions for free and reduced price reusable bags around this time.


      If you forget your reusable bags at the stores, there will be a number of options available to you prior to having to pay for plastic bags; you will have the option to retrieve your reusables whilst you are waiting for your groceries to be rung through; place your groceries back into your cart once paid for and wheel them to your car, where you can place your groceries into the bags left there or directly into the trunk; buy a reusable bag or as a final option purchase plastic bags for 5 cents each on this occasion – and remember your bags next time. The point of the charge is to encourage more customers to remember their bags in the first place and there will be plenty of signage around stores to assist in this also. With regards to the increased opportunity for shoplifting, the supermarkets are aware of this and will be taking appropriate steps to adapt their present security measures.


      We do indeed hope that more retailers will see the success that we expect the supermarkets to have with this campaign, and recognize the environmental and economic benefits of supplying less and eventually no plastic bags to customers, and act similarly. We will do more than hope however, and plan to actively engage other larger retailers once we have sufficient data to demonstrate the uptake of reusable bags in the community.


      Finally, through running Cayman Become and future projects, as a group the Corporate Green Team Network plans to encourage our community to take many of these small steps which will in the long run add up to a significant amount of positive change for our Islands and which will also hopefully serve as a catalyst for the government to put in place the necessary legislation and polices to protect our fragile environment and resources.

  2. Anonymous says:

    For all those negative individuals who are convinced that this is only going to make your lifes more miserable, I am afraid that your life is in general probably already miserable and you have never anything good to say about anything. 

    It is really not that hard! Get some reusable bags (a $5 investment will get you 5 bags), keep them in your car and use them when you go shopping! If you forget to take them inside the store, load your groceries back in the cart, roll it up to your car and then pack your groceries into the bags directly into the trunk of your car. This is how half of Europe does it, so I am sure you can do it too!

    For those of you who do not have a vehicle, keep a couple of bags rolled up in your purse, brief case, back-pack etc.

    Can you please now get on with your life?!?! If something little like this throws you for a loop – gheeze, I wonder how you manage to survive on a daily basis.

  3. Richard N. Parson says:

     Anything that can be done to reduce the amount of garbage in Cayman is welcome.  At least give it a try.  I was speechless and horrified when standing on the upper deck of a visiting Cruise Ship, I beheld the highest structure on Cayman………..MOUNT TRASHMORE!!  The garbage dump, brown, nasty and growing ever larger, loomed above all the concrete buildings of which Caymanians are so proud.

  4. Canada says:

    Finally! After leaving Cayman for Canada we have gotten use to our reuseable shopping bags and packing our own groceries (did that in Cayman as well to prevent the bread from getting squished). We now use our yellow and blue recycling bins (the cardboard/paper is usually fullest) and end up with only one bag of household garbage a week. This in a house of 4. Cayman it is a start, recycling is your next step and stop allowing styrofoam to be used. Its a shame what is being done to a once beautiful island. As an end note, get rid of the concrete medians and plant trees, shrubs or flowers, they are so much nicer to look at!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Or….. do as we simply do at the wholesale stores……put the items back in your cart and load them into your trunk without needing a bag. We already do this at Priced Right, Cost U Less, etc. As for those who don’t have a vehicle, use your suitcases, traveling bags, appliance boxes, etc. Improvise!

    • Anonymous says:

      Have you tried shopping without a vehicle….use your suitcases, travel(l)ing bags, appliance boxes……how do you carry them back to your house full of shopping?  Let me know when you have tried it!

      • Anonymous says:

        well how to you carry them home when you have 10 plastic bags??? If you put it in a suitcase, you can wheel it home; if you put it in a back pack, you can put it on your back – yes I have tried it and yes it works – stop being so pesimistic

        • Anonymous says:

          Do you mean ‘well how do you carry them…..’?

          Well, as an octopus only able to carry 8!   Will wave to you as you are wheeling your suitcase down the road. 

          Back packs go on the back do they….



      • Anonymous says:

        Well pay for the plastic bags then ….there is no sense in arguing about this. With most, I would have figured having wheels on the mobile "whatever" whether it be a suitcase or who knows what would have aided one to carry items a little better. Or just pay for the bag….simple as that. :o)

        • Anonymous says:

          Maybe the supermarkets will put on buses for those paying for the plastic bags!

          Why pay for the bag?

      • Anonymous says:

        …. no, but you can carry your shopping in reuseable bags, which can hold a lot more items and are much less likely to rip. You can even load them in a back-pack and carry them on your back!

  6. Anonymous says:

    This whole thing is nothing but hog wash designed to increase the cost of living for the consumers.

    Most supermarket bags are now used to package our garbage that we put out to be collected. If we put out the garbage without bags the garbage men dont pick it up so now we will have to buy plastic bags solely to package our garbage.

    Unless I am guaranteed by the DOE that the garbage collectors are going to dump my garbage container in the truck and return my garbage can to its protective holder I can not see what difference this will make with the exception of increasing the cost of living to the consumers and make the Supermarket Owners richer.

    The garbage collectors wont pick up anything bigger that a supermarket bag. They just drive on and leave your garbage uncollected until you bag it.

    • Anonymous says:

      actually I saw garbage men only just this morning putting large GARBAGE bags in their truck – i’m sorry but you are completely full of s*** saying that they will only pick up grocercy bags.

  7. Scrooge McDuck says:

    It seems that people always lead the way and we have to.  We have to stop waiting for decisions to be made, or given permission especiallywhen it comes to our environment.  The financial situation?  We don’t even want to go there!  But that mountain… what an eyesore and what an embarrassment.

  8. Craig Merren says:


    About time! I been calling for this over the 15 years. After seeing customers taking their own bags to the supermarkets in the UK I thought that would be a great idea in Cayman. Those that don’t have their own GREEN BAG should be charge a small fee….say $0.5 per bag. They hold so much, especially those big blue bags from Cost-U-Less. 

    If my memory serves me right, the UK supermarkets actually discounted your grocery bill and matched that amount which went towards the environment or something GREEN.

    Look at it this way – be nice to Mother Earth or she get pissed off and send another IVAN!    

  9. Roger Corbin says:

    A welcome step in the maturing attitude of taking care of the environment.

    I hope it is followed by a permanent solution to the Mount Trashmore problem which needs to be closed and relocated to a custom designed site where pollution can be minimised and waste treated properly.

    Do we need to wait until the existing landfill site becomes a serious bio-hazard before it is closed?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Now we need to extend this to ALL our other stores. I know they don’t all use plastic, but some do. And even those who use paper could do a little bit more for the earth and the landfill – paper does not scar the environment the way plastic does, but not all paper comes from sustainably grown trees! So either ensure paper bags are sustainable or get rid of them too. I carry small bags in my handbag (they fold up small like the ponchos you might use when on holiday) and pull them out at bookstores, the pharmacy, Kirk Home Centre or Thompsons …

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad to see this in Cayman.  I try to use my recyclable bags as much as possible, but now this will force me to use them every single time.  Besides those plastic bags just accumulate too quickly. :-S

    • Anonymous says:

      Answer to glad to see this in Cayman. I can only imagine that you are one of those people that hardly ever go to the Supermarkets. There are some folks around who only put their monies in the Banks, and some who only send their mony home. Which ever you are good for you but this is going to be very inconvenient for the majority of us.  I can only hope that the supermarkets already have bags for sale by their cash registers. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to us since the caymanian telephone operators was misplaced.This si going to make us look just like Cuba. Soon the breads wont have the plastic covers on them either.

      • Anonymous says:

        Who do you think you are to be speaking on behalf of the majority? How is using reusable bags inconvenient?

        Pull your useless head out of your $)(*%$ and catch up with the year 2010!

        Nobody cares what is convenient for you. Get of your laziness and embrace some change!

      • JMerrren says:

        I am a BORN CAYMANIAN (check my last name, which is my maiden name) who is very frequent at the supermarkets thank you very much!!  I love my island which is why I will put in my part (no matter how small) to help it!

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes this is the WORST thing that has happened to Cayman – I mean Ivan was nothing compared to this – Oh my what am I going to do, I have to either use recycable bags to put my shopping in or I have to pay (holding breathe because it is so bad) 5cents for a plastic bag – what am I going to do!!!

        I am the majority of us (tee hee) and this is not that bad – I have in fact been collecting this bags from different functions over the past few years yes they have been free at things like the Island living show etc. Just an FYI the BECOME people will be giving out bags at some point this week at all the supermarkets – so now is your chance to get a free one.

        Lets work this out.

        1 Shopping trip = approx 10 plastic bags = 50cents for your bags

        2 shopping trips/week = $1.00 for your bags

        1 reusable bag = approx $2.00 (depending on where you get them most ar $1.00)

        1 reusable bag = approx 4 plastic bags (depending on what you buy)

        5 resuable bags = 20 plastic bags = $10

        therefore after approx 10 shopping trips you have paid for your bags and they are yours to keep and use over and over again, versus $52 you’d spend each year – up to you to decide

  12. Anonymous says:

    Such welcome news!! And yes, the baggers are ridiculously wasteful!! It used to drive me nuts when I used to use plastic bags.

    Supermarkets should also save money on branding and purchase of the plastic bags. I think Coco the Clown’s smile just got a little wider 🙂

  13. Anonymous says:

    Good point about the supermarket packers, but guess what the packers are human and repsond to being spoken to, I have founs phrases such as, "Please put as much as you can in that bag." seem to work quite well. Or you can even… wait for it… pack your groceries yourself!

    The thing is, I use the plastic bags from Fosters as garbage bin liners and for dog poop, so, if we ban these bags, I then have to buy recycled plastic bags…. seems a bit silly!


  14. Anonymous says:

    All stores should charge for plastic bags.  Shoppers will then use the cotton bags.  This is well known in Europe and shoppers got used to it.  Now you barely see plastic bags anymore.  Keep our Island clean!

  15. Jo says:

    About time!  Bring it on!

  16. Anonymous says:

     Excellent news!  Watch this free documentary about how plastic and other pollution has such a negative effect on sea life –


  17. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone addressed the fact that radioactive waste has been found at the local dump?
    If there’s any question I implore you to conduct an independent investigation into this travesty.

  18. N. Syder says:

    Finally, this is catching on – I use reuseable bags all the time, they never rip when full of beer!!

    If the supermarket packers would use 1 bag more efficiently instead of one or two items per bag then Cayman will dramatically reduce the plastic bag consumption. Plus as no-one on island makes plastic bags, no-one can complain about ruining another Caymanian Businessman!!