Single-use plastic trash in Great Salt Pond. (Guillaume Lacome photo)
COLE BAY–Nature Foundation has written to Parliament requesting an update on steps 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 major contributors to the current situation at the landfill.
Nature Foundation calculated that the Dutch side of the island 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 the single-use plastics end up in the 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, which are much more durable and stronger. The less waste created, the better for the 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 the 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 in 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. More than 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. The European Union (EU) planned to ban single-use plastic products to reduce the massive amount of ocean pollution.
The landfill here reached its maximum capacity already in 2008 and garbage bins along beaches are overflowing daily. There is simply no more room for unnecessary waste.