The Nature Foundation St Maarten was informed about a massive amount of littering which took place at the ‘Soak A fete’ last Sunday night despite the repeated remarks of the organization to visitors of the event to dispose their trash responsibly. Buccaneer Beach Bar, CC1, Meadowlands and DTF events did a great job cleaning up the entire beach, the Kimsha parking lot and several roads surrounding the beach. Nature Foundation applauds the initiative of the event to not provide any straws and only use biodegradable cups and hopefully other events will follow this initiative. However, unfortunately during cleaning up after the event mostly plastic cups and plastic straws were found, presumably taken by visitors from surrounding businesses.
“A ban on single-use plastics is very much needed in St Maarten and all businesses should move to reusable and biodegradable alternatives instead. People need to dispose their trash responsibly, which means in a trash bin and not on the beach, in the environment or on public roads. The event crew did an amazing job cleaning up the surroundings; unfortunately wind and rain probably already caused a significant amount of these plastic straws and cups to end up in our ocean and environment. Therefore we are asking all residents and tourists to dispose their trash properly and all businesses to move to reusable and biodegradable alternatives instead of single-use plastics” stated Nature Foundation Projects Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
St Maarten uses a remarkably high amount of single-use plastics every day, as plastic bags are given for free for every purchased item and plastic straws with any drink. Also takeout food in Styrofoam is standard and very popular, which also includes the use of plastic cutlery. The Nature Foundation calculated that Dutch St Maarten alone uses more than 1.4 billion plastic straws a year; straws are used for a few minutes and last forever in the local environment. These single-use plastics are some of the most environmentally damaging products on the island. These items do not biodegrade and stay in the ecosystem and oceans forever, causing impacts to the environment, animals and humans. Plastic releases harmful chemicals when it breaks down into smaller pieces that are ingested by marine life and eventually humans, new research even shows greenhouse gas production when plastic breaks down.
“To fight pollution and littering on our island, which is undoubtedly necessary, I already proposed the introduction of a cup return fee for several events on St Maarten. Which means you will purchase your cup at the start of the event and upon return of the cup you will receive your cup-fee back by the organization. Adding an important value to our trash, encouraging visitors of the event to reuse products and properly dispose your trash. People picking up cups from others can make some extra dollars for their next drink” explained Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
The Foundation is asking businesses and event organizations to contact the Nature Foundation if they would like to receive tips and tricks to reduce single-use plastics and look into other responsible alternatives.
The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation teamed up with Cruise Passengers from Princess Cruise Lines, Fathom Travel and Carib Resorts in cleaning garbage and hurricane debris from Guana Bay Beach, Sint Maarten’s most critical turtle nesting beach and one of the beaches hardest hit by Hurricane Irma. Some 100 passengers assisted the Nature Foundation in cleaning various debris, plastic, fishing tackle and glass for three hours on Wednesday morning. The activity was a part of the Fathom and Princess Cruises Cruise for the Caribbean and is the first time passengers from a cruise ship to Sint Maarten have participated in an impactful environmental activity; “We were so pleased and honored to have guests from a cruise ship take time out of their holiday to assist Sint Maarten both with an ecological activity and helping us rebuild Sint Maarten after the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma. We are so grateful to the whole team and the positive attitude everyone showed while ridding the beach of plastic. It is excellent to see this move towards a sustainable tourism for Sint Maarten post-Hurricane Irma,” read a Nature Foundation statement.
Guana Bay is listed as the index beach for all three species of Sea Turtle that nest on Sint Maarten. During the cleanup activity some three tons of trash were collected and removed from the beach. The group also made a generous donation towards the Nature Foundation’s cleanup activities post hurricane Irma. Cleanup supplies were provided by well-known Environmental NGO 4Ocean who provided gloves, re-usable trash bags and cleaning tools.
Last Sunday the Nature Foundation organized a beach cleanup on Simpson Bay Beach as part of the ‘Save our Sharks’ project in collaboration with the Dutch-based Boskalis Beach Clean Up tour. The Boskalis tour is an initiative of the North Sea Foundation where business, consumers, civil society, and government clean the entire Dutch coast. This year the cleanups were held throughout the entire kingdom for the first time with all the Dutch Caribbean islands participating.
At least eighty volunteers showed up to help preserve nature, marine life and wildlife on St Maarten by cleaning up Simpson Bay Beach. Around 200 kg of garbage and trash was collected including straws, plastic bottles, cans and large car tires. The volunteers cleaned the beach for more than two hours and they learned about the major impacts of trash on the local environment. The Nature Foundation also explained about the possibilities to reduce plastic waste, such as the use of paper straws instead of plastic straws, reusable cutlery and reusable shopping bags instead of plastic bags.
The first fifty participants received the first reusable shopping bags from the ‘Save our Sharks’ project, this is a great example for how residents can reduce plastic waste. The Foundation is asking the community to stop accepting single-use plastic bags at stores; these bags have significant negative impacts on the local environment and wildlife. Birds are often found dead with stomachs full of plastic and marine life often entangles in plastic waste, killing them. Research also shows that 48% of fish humans consume contains plastic. “Especially as an island nation, we depend on our oceans, tourists come from far to see our beautiful marine life, therefore we also need to have a clean ocean as a priority,” commented Nature Foundation Project Manager Melanie Meijer Zu-Schlochtern.
The Foundation would like to thank Karakter Beach Bar for their support by providing drinks for all participants. Karakter already uses recyclable plastic cups and during the cleanup also announced that they will start to use paper straws instead of plastic straws. The Nature Foundation hopes more establishments will follow this initiative.