The Nature Foundation has repeatedly asked both government and businesses to ban and reduce their single-use plastics dramatically, as, besides the harmful effects of plastics on the environment, recent scientific research found degrading plastics to be a source of greenhouse gases. Researchers from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) discovered that several greenhouse gases are emitted when common plastics are degrading in the environment.
“The study reports a previously unrecognized production of greenhouse gases (methane and ethylene) when common plastics break down and are exposed to sunlight. The team tested the most predominate types of plastic manufactured and littered globally, including materials for food storage (Styrofoam, plastic bottles and bags, etc.). Polyethylene, for example used in plastic bags, is the most produced and discarded synthetic polymer globally and the researchers found this to be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It is something we should consider when accepting single-use plastic bags, plastic items and Styrofoam, an island wide ban is desired and businesses should reduce these items to protect our environment and ourselves” explained Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern Nature Foundation’s Project Officer.
Single-use plastics are known to have deleterious effects on the environment. Plastics are known to release a variety of chemicals during degradation, which has a negative impact on organisms and ecosystems. It is also known that smaller particles, termed ‘microplastics,’ are the end product of plastic degradation and may further accelerate greenhouse gas production in the environment. Degradation and breakdown of plastic represents a newly discovered source of greenhouse gases that are expected to increase, because more plastic is produced and accumulated in the environment.
“Greenhouse gases directly influence climate change—affecting sea level, global temperatures, ecosystem health on land and in the ocean, and intensify storms and hurricanes, which increase flooding, drought, and erosion. Considering the amounts of plastic washing ashore on our coastlines and the amount of plastic exposed to ambient conditions, our finding provides further evidence that we need to stop plastic production at the source, especially single-use plastic” stated leading author of the study Sarah-Jeanne Royer, a post-doctoral scholar in the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE).
“The Nature Foundation applauds all business which already switched to biodegradable and reusable products instead of single-use plastics, these responsible businesses will contribute to a greener and more sustainable St Maarten for future generations to come. In the coming months businesses on St Maarten will be officially invited by the Nature Foundation to reduce their single-use plastics and use reusable and biodegradable alternative” commented Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
Through the Reduce & Reuse St Maarten’ project, the Nature Foundation is fighting plastic pollution and is teaching and encouraging residents, children and businesses to reduce their plastic waste output and clean-up the environment. Part of the project is to lobby for a Single-use plastic ban, as awareness on its own will not reduce the massive amounts of waste created and left behind on beaches and in the environment. In order to protect our environment for the generations to come, to reduce our landfill and to changes St Maarten’s image of a garbage island into an eco-friendly destination, a ban on single-use plastics is needed.Thanks to the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine and the Heineken Regatta for their generous donations towards the Reduce and Reuse project.