The Nature Foundation is urging the new parliament to move forward with the ban on single-use plastic bags, plastic straws and Styrofoam and to approve proposed legislation initiated by MP Sarah Wescot-Williams. The Nature Foundation St. Maarten has been advocating for a single-use plastic ban for several years due to the tremendous impacts on St. Maarten’s environment and natural habitats because of these plastics. Recently, many Caribbean Islands surrounding St. Maarten have already banned or announced to ban single-use plastics however until today Sint Maarten stays behind. Single-use plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of this generation and these plastics are abundantly littered on St Maarten. Single-use plastics are also a major contributor to the current situation at the Philipsburg landfill. According to research conducted by the Nature Foundation, a single use plastic ban would reduce pollution on St. Maarten beaches by almost 50%.
“Plastics have extreme durability therefore it does not break down or biodegrade, it only breaks down into smaller pieces. Plastic particles less than 5 mm (or the size of a small red ant) is considered a microplastic. One study found that 90% of birds and fish have ingested microplastics or large pieces. These microplastics work their way up the food chain through a small fish ingesting a piece, then a larger fish ingesting the fish, and so on until it reaches humans and accumulates in us. An estimated 2 out of 3 fish in the world have ingested plastic, therefore if it is part of your diet you most likely have ingested plastic as well. There have been little to no studies yet on the long-term impacts of digesting plastics on human health” stated the Nature Foundation St. Maarten.
When coral reefs come in contact with plastic, their likelihood of contracting diseases increases from 4% to 89%. Coral reefs are extremely important for the safety and future of the island serving as buffers against storms and attracting many tourists. Waves break further out in the ocean on coral reefs before they reach shore, reducing damage to the island. Without these natural barriers, beaches on Sint Maarten can wash away resulting in a massive decline in tourism and economic failure. Reduce and Reuse intern at the Nature Foundation St. Maarten, Grace Hansen commented on the ban; “Over half of the Caribbean nations have implemented some sort of plastic ban already whether it’s straws, bags, Styrofoam or all plastics. St. Maarten is one of the few that has no legislation in place yet. The French side of the island has passed a single use plastic ban for the start of the new decade and we can learn from them. I believe people are afraid of the economic cost of biodegradable or reusable options. However, as resources are dwindling, and ecosystems are suffering there will be an even greater economic burden placed on people.”
Last month Grace Hansen, conducted the country’s first ever plastic brand audit. Of the 603 items of trash removed from Mullet Bay Beach, over half (393 items) were plastics. 48.1% of these were single use plastic materials such as cups, bags, plates, straws, cutlery, Styrofoam and to go containers. St. Maarten must join the other Caribbean nations in banning single use plastics, this legislation would have everlasting positive impacts on the environment and local economy of St. Maarten.
It is also very important to reduce the amount of plastic that enters the land fill in St. Maarten. The dump by Phillipsburg reached maximum capacity 12 years ago. To prevent more trash from accumulating and further polluting the island, we must switch to reusable and eco-friendly materials. With the ongoing global plastic crisis, citizens must do their part by reducing their contribution. The government must take action now in order to prevent even more pollution from accumulating. The future of St. Maarten as a beautiful country will be jeopardized if a ban on single use plastics is overlooked. The Reduce and Reuse project from the Nature Foundation is designed to teach and encourage residents, children and businesses to reduce their waste output and clean-up the environment. The project was launched after Hurricane Irma hit the island and an increase of the already large amounts of single-use plastic waste was found in the environment, nature and waters surrounding Sint Maarten. Show your support for a ban on single-use plastics by signing the petition; https://www.change.org/p/less-plastic-more-sxm?fbclid=IwAR0FL3jt-Dpqrz7rSuPYjc_dbB-5–mtBQyvx9XwEzzuMaRJbmkYf8b6I1E