The aim of the Reduce and Reuse project is to reduce the amount of single-use plastics on the island and to create a cleaner and greener St Maarten. The project teaches and encourages residents, school children and businesses to reduce their waste output and to keep our environment clean.
On St Maarten, the use of styrofoam, plastic cups and cutlery, plastic straws and single use plastic bags is very systematic, widespread, accepted. They are handed out anywhere without discouragement or a fee. Barely any establishment provides biodegradable or reusable alternatives.
The Nature Foundation St Maarten is actively promoting the use of reusable and biodegradable products in the community, by means of social media, newspaper articles, flyers, establishment visits, workshops and school presentations. Through donations from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine and the Heineken Regatta, the Nature Foundation was able to start the Reduce and Reuse St Maarten project.
The island of St Maarten has major waste problems due to the poor state of the landfill, frequent toxic landfill fires, no waste separation nor management and no recycling. The landfill was close to its maximum capacity in 2008, but is still continued to be used. The ineffective disposal of waste causes grave concerns on the island such as
- health hazards,
- air pollution, and
- water and soil contamination.
After Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the landfill input increased extremely and a second dump was created in order to dispose the large amounts of hurricane debris.
Besides waste management problems, research has also shown that St Maarten has the highest municipal solid waste of the Caribbean: 9.7 kg per capita per day, compared to Curacao’s waste generation of 0.44 kg (source: SER SXM). The Nature Foundation also calculated that the Dutch-side of St Maarten uses at least more than 1.4 billion plastic straws a year (source), creating massive waste using only straws! Littering and the usage of single use plastics are widely accepted on the island, causing garbage bins to overflow and plastic trash to end up in the ocean.
In our world, at least 9 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year (source: Scientific American). Plastic never biodegrades, it only breaks down into tiny pieces, all marine life ingest these toxic micro plastics, which in turn is consumed by us. In addition, when plastic breaks down in pieces, it releases harmful chemicals which are also ingested by marine life.
Researchers found out that 96% of all marine biodiversity is vulnerable to plastic pollution each year. Already 52% of all sea turtles mistake plastic for food, 90% of all seabirds ingest plastic and 100% of our coral reefs are impacted by plastic pollution. As a result of the accumulation of plastic in their stomachs, many marine animals and birds starve to death. If things are continuing as they are now, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Enough reasons to support the Reduce and Reuse project and to decrease our plastic input to the environment!
What can I do?
All businesses on St Maarten can also help to reduce a large amount of single-use plastic pollution by following these 5 impactful steps:
- Step 1: Only provide straws and bags upon request.
- Step 2: Use reusable cups and cutlery whenever possible.
- Step 3: Use biodegradable products (straws, cups, lids, cutlery and to-go containers).
- Step 4: Advertise your eco-activism!
- Step 5: Lobby other companies to use less plastic!