The results of Nature Foundation’s brand audit beach clean-up showing the amount and percentages of plastic items collected.
MAHO–St. Maarten Nature Foundation said its first-ever brand audit beach clean-up at Mullet Bay Beach on January 11, revealed that the number-one item littered on St. Maarten beaches are single-use plastics. More than 200 pounds (lbs) of garbage was removed from the beach as a result of the clean-up.
During the clean-up, members of SXM A.C.T.I.O.N. and Nature Foundation and other volunteers spent approximately two hours collecting, sorting and recording garbage, based on brand and type. Local brewery SXM Beer and Hay!Straws St. Maarten sponsored the event and rewarded volunteers with free snacks and beer at the end of the clean-up.
“With over half of the plastics found being single-use items, it strengthens our mission to ban single-use plastics on the Dutch side even more. A ban would reduce the pollution on our beaches by more than 50 per cent, resulting in a healthier, more beautiful and preserved environment for all, attracting tourism in the long term,” said St. Maarten Nature Foundation intern and clean-up organiser Grace Hansen.
According to the foundation, of the 603 items of garbage removed from Mullet Bay Beach and the surrounding area, more than half (393 items) were plastic items. In total, 48.1 per cent of these were single-use plastics, such as cups, bags, plates, straws, cutlery, Styrofoam and to-go containers.
The results show that the brand Nestle was the number one polluting brand, with more than 20 items recovered.
“Through identifying the most polluting brand, the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement will be able to compare the data to other nations. This will then be brought to the Nestle Corporation to encourage more sustainable packaging. Almost all of the Nestle products collected were plastic water bottles. These can be exchanged for reusable bottles, which have a minimum life of five years.
“One study found that using a reusable water bottle rather than plastic for five years can save the average person US $6,180. If a family of four switches to reusable bottles, they can save around $120,000 in five years.
“Quite a few of the single-use plastic items found came from a wide variety of brands that were not directly identifiable due to the condition of these items. These plastic pollutants are completely avoidable. Green alternatives, reusable materials and proper waste disposal could solve most of St. Maarten’s beach pollution,” said the foundation in a press release on Friday.
According to the foundation, proper disposal of garbage is extremely important for the benefit of the environment, individuals’ health and the island’s tourism. As such, the foundation urges persons to try to clean up the area around them after each visit to the beach and to dispose trash responsibly.
“People often consider that their individual efforts are not enough to make an impact. If eight billion people had this mentality, the world would be much more polluted than it already is. It is the individuals who make the conscious effort to reduce their plastic consumption and maintain the health of the areas around them that will save the environment,” said Hansen.
“Some alternatives to plastic cutlery include bamboo or travel utensils. Instead of using single-use [plastics – Ed.] each time takeout food is ordered, bring your own utensils in a travel pack or a ‘spork’ to cut back on your plastic consumption. Reusable metal straws can be used instead of plastic straws as part of a travel kit or when taking out food.
“… Another easy alternative is [for restaurants] changing protocol by only giving a straw to customers upon request. Bringing your own to-go containers to restaurants and your own bags to stores is another way to cut back on plastics entering the environment,” concluded the foundation.