The Nature Foundation organized a beach cleanup at Mullet Bay Beach on the 18th of April in order to kick off their new project to encourage residents and visitors to ‘Reduce and Reuse’ their plastic output. About 15 volunteers removed 294 pounds of trash from the beach, using the Trash Tracker method developed by Ocean Cleanup Organization 4Oceans by weighing all the collected trash and using reusable bags and gloves. Waste collected during the cleanup has been documented and will be used as research information to encourage local restaurants, residents and visitors to go plastic-free.
St Maarten has major waste problems due to poor waste management, frequent toxic landfill fires, no waste separation and no recycling. The ineffective disposal of waste causes grave concerns regarding public health, air pollution, and water and soil contamination. Research has also shown that St Maarten has the highest municipal solid waste of the Caribbean at 9.7 kg per capita per day, compared to Curacao’s waste generation of 0.44 kg. Littering and the use of single use plastics is widely accepted on the island, causing garbage to lay around and plastic trash to end up in our oceans, impacting and affecting our environment, corals, fish, birds and wildlife. As a nonprofit and non-governmental organization focused on protecting nature and environment on St Maarten, the Nature Foundation wants to make steps to reduce single use plastics and littering, and promote biodegradable and reusable products to address the waste problem.
The ‘Reduce & Reuse St Maarten’ project is designed to teach and encourage residents, children and establishments to reduce their waste output and clean-up the environment. The use of Styrofoam, plastic cups and cutlery, plastic straws and single use plastic bags is very common and is handed out without discouragement or a fee: this project will try to change that and stimulate a switch to biodegradable and reusable products. The new project will be also pushing for the plastic bag ban, something the Nature Foundation has been requesting for a long period. The need of more garbage bins around the island, beaches and during events will be addressed as well, at the moment the shortage of bins provides excuses to litter and leave your trash behind.
There is a renewed momentum on the island concerning not using single use plastics anymore. Various establishments are going plastic free, including many restaurants and bars including Buccaneer Beach Bar, The Dinghy Dock and Karakter Beach Bar. We even now have one of the largest hotels, Divi Little Bay, going completely straw free when they reopen. All of these developments are awesome and we support and encourage them and more businesses to recognize how dangerous plastics are to our health and environment. Hopefully through this new project we can give the necessary support and feedback to make single plastics a thing of the past on the island,” according to the Nature Foundation.
St. Maarten is a beautiful island that attracts millions of visitors from all over the world. The Nature Foundation wants to keep it that way, your help in cleaning up and reducing your plastic waste will go a long way in ensuring the preservation of the beauty we are all so proud of!