SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) – The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has requested in writing an update from Parliament on steps currently being taken to ban single-use plastic products such as plastic bags, straws and cutlery and Styrofoam food containers in an effort to reduce marine litter and pollution on St Maarten. Single use plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of this generation. These types of plastics are also a major contributor to the current situation at the Philipsburg landfill.
St Maarten uses a remarkable amount of single-use plastics every day, as plastic bags are given for free for every purchased item and plastic straws with any drink. Also takeout food in Styrofoam is normal and very popular, this also includes plastic cutlery. The Nature Foundation calculated that Dutch St Maarten alone uses more than 1.4 billion plastic straws a year; straws are used for a few minutes and last forever in the environment. A lot of our single-use plastics end up in our environment and ocean due to littering and poor garbage disposal. Besides, St Maarten just cannot handle this much single-use plastic waste, the landfill is already overfull.
Single-use plastic products are easy to be replaced with more environmentally sustainable materials; reusable products are highly recommended, such as reusable shopping bags, these bags are much more durable and stronger, the less waste we create the better for our waste problems. Single-use products can easily be substituted by biodegradable products such as paper straws or biodegradable cups and food containers, which are all already available on the island.
Biodegradable disposable products are abundantly available on our island; the more businesses will shift to biodegradable alternatives the lower the prices will go and availability will increase. Paper straws, paper or sugar cane plates, bamboo plates, biodegradable cups, paper food containers, paper bags, wooden cutlery and much more are all already available on St. Maarten but without an official ban businesses and events will continue to use single use plastics.
Worldwide, there is a growing movement to move away from single-use plastics. Over 200 nations have already either banned items like plastic bags and straws or require consumers to pay a fee per use. Recently various Caribbean countries have banned various forms of single use plastics. EU planned to ban single-use plastic products in order to reduce the massive amount of ocean pollution. The Sint Maarten landfill reached its maximum capacity already in 2008 and garbage bins along beaches are overflowing daily, there is simply no more room for unnecessary waste.