Nature Foundation Calls on Businesses to use Biodegradable and Reusable Products

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is calling on all businesses, stores, bars, restaurants, tour operators and event organizers to start using biodegradable and reusable products instead of single-use plastics. Single-use plastic is one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of this generation and a major contributor to the current situation at the Philipsburg landfill. A lot of our single-use plastics end up in our environment and ocean due to littering and poor garbage disposal. Besides, St Maarten just cannot handle the large amount of single-use plastic waste, our dump is already overfilled.

“All businesses can contribute to reduce the single-use plastics on our island and reduce the input of these toxic materials to our environment and landfill. Biodegradable disposable products are already available on our island; the more businesses will shift to biodegradable alternatives the lower the prices will go and availability will increase. Paper straws, paper or sugar cane plates, bamboo plates, biodegradable cups, paper food containers, paper bags, wooden cutlery and much more are all already available on St Maarten and carried by suppliers such as PDG and Merchants Market. Businesses do not have to use single-use plastics, which are impacting and damaging our environment, nature and even us. We are asking all establishments to go green and reduce their single-use plastics, to use reusable products or biodegradable products instead” stated Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

At least 9 million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year, a rate that has increased 100 times in the past 40 years. If current trends continue there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Single use plastic bags, plastic straws, cutlery and Styrofoam food containers are some of the most environmentally damaging products on our 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.

“Several businesses already switched to biodegradable alternatives instead of single-use plastics, such as Dinghy Dock Bar, Buccaneers Beach Bar and Coconut Reef Tours. We very welcome these initiatives and hope many more businesses will follow. Any business, store, bar, restaurant or tour operator who would like to receive more information about the possibilities to switch to biodegradable and reusable alternatives for single-use plastics can contact the Nature Foundation” continued Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern Nature Foundation’s Project Officer.

All around the world eco-tourism is in the rise and plastic free movements are getting more popular as the tremendous impacts of single-use plastics are inescapable. To keep St Maarten a popular destination for the future and to protect our natural beauty, the change to a more eco-friendly destination need to be made including the use of biodegradable and reusable products. 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.

Picture 1: Every day several Styrofoam food containers are fished out by the Nature Foundation from the Simpson Bay lagoon.

Picture 2: Single-use plastics views in our natural environments are ordinary instead of being the exception.

Nature Foundation Reiterates its Call on Parliament to Ban Single-Use Plastics

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is again calling on Parliament to ban single-use plastic products such as plastic bags, straws and cutlery and styrofoam food containers in an effort to reduce marine litter and pollution on St Maarten. Single use plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of this generation. These types of plastics are also a major contributor to the current situation at the Philipsburg landfill.

At least 9 million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year, a rate that has increased 100 times in the past 40 years. If current trends continue there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Single use plastic bags, straws, cutlery and Styrofoam food containers are some of the most environmentally damaging products on the island. These items do not biodegrade and stay in the ecosystem and oceans for ever, 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. Single use plastics are especially harmful to sea turtles, seabirds, marine mammals, coral reefs and fish that are smothered, choked and otherwise harmed or killed by the plastic products.

“St Maarten uses a remarkable 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 normal and very popular, this also includes plastic cutlery. We 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 environment. A lot of our single-use plastics end up in our environment and ocean due to littering and poor garbage disposal. Besides, St Maarten just cannot handle this much single-use plastic waste, our dump is already overfull” stated Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Worldwide, there is growing interest in protecting the environment and moving away from single-use plastics. Over 200 nations have already either banned items like plastic bags and straws or require consumers to pay a fee per use. Recently even the EU proposed to ban single-use plastic products in order to reduce the massive amount of ocean pollution. The Sint Maarten landfill reached its maximum capacity already in 2008 and garbage bins along beaches are overflowing daily, there is simply no more room for unnecessary waste.

“Single-use plastic products are easy to be replaced with more environmentally sustainable materials; reusable products are highly recommended, such as reusable shopping bags, these bags are much more durable and stronger, the less waste we create the better for our waste problems. Single-use products can easily be substituted by biodegradable products such as paper straws or biodegradable cups and food containers, which are all already available on the island.”

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.

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Launches Reduce and Reuse Sint Maarten Project Aiming to Reduce the Island’s Single-Use Plastic Consumption

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!

Nature Foundation Representatives Lynn Martina, Rebecca Benjamin-Carey and Binky the Beach Cleanup Dog Tracking Trash at the first Beach cleanup for the new ‘Reduce & Reuse St Maarten’ project!

Nature Foundation Records Large Amount of Trash Left on Beaches after Easter Holidays. Bonfires Also Lit Without Permits

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, during its beach patrols, has noticed a significant amount of trash left behind by both residents and visitors after the Easter holidays. The Foundation has noticed a large amount of trash being left behind by users of beaches and along the roadsides; “We noticed a large amount of trash being left behind by beach-goers and again would like to urge the population to clean-up after themselves as any responsible, able-minded and mature citizen of Sint Maarten should,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager. “Mullet Bay Beach for example is a huge mess, with food trash attracting ants and rats, plastic cups and bottles and single use plastic bags littering the beach. Numerous bonfires were also lit without a permit, endangering the critically endangered nesting sea turtle population. This especially hurts since we were so busy to ensure that the beaches were clean after the hurricane for people to use and to see that trash is being left behind is unacceptable,” continued Bervoets.

The Nature Foundation is also calling on Government and organizers of events and activities to ensure that there are enough waste disposal facilities available;” patrons who want to dispose of their garbage are sometimes unable to do so because there aren’t enough bins on the roadside or at the beaches or at event locations. Therefore we are asking that more emphasis is being placed on having proper garbage disposal facilities available during these events. There should also be a scheme where beaches are cleaned regularly instead of waiting on NGO’s and Volunteers to clean garbage. We also urgently need legislation banning certain plastics as the situation is now more or less out of control,” concluded Bervoets.

Photo: Garbage on Mullet Bay Beach

Nature Foundation has Grave Concerns Regarding Activities on Guana Bay Beach

Native Sea Turtle Population Can Be Brought into Jeopardy

The St. Maarten Nature Foundation recently carried out a wide scale assesment of the threats to St. Maarten’s Native Sea Turtle population which mostly nests at Guana Bay Beach. Over the last two months there have been activities that have been occuring on Guana Bay which have caused the Nature Foundation to express grave concern on the safety of the island’s most important sea turtle nesting beach. Threats on Guana Bay are related to construction actiity occuring there, bonfires and people driving vehicles on the beach.

Each year between March and November, female sea turtles return to lay their eggs on the island. There are three sea turtles which nest on St. Maarten beaches: the Hawksbill Sea Turtle, the Green Sea Turtle and the largest sea turtle species, the Leatherback. Guana Bay Beach is the most important nesting site, with 42% of all sea turtles having nested on just that one particular beach.

Sea turtle population numbers have plummeted to dangerously low numbers throughout the past century due to human impacts, bringing many species close to extinction and causing them to be listed as critically endangered. In order to reverse this trend, all sea turtle species are now protected by international laws and treaties as well as local laws.

The location where construction is occuing is historically one of the most important areas for sea turtle nests on Guana Bay Beach. The large scale excavation and disturbance of sand has resulted in a seriously damaged ecosystem for nesting turtles.

Bonfires and beachfront lighting also strongly affects sea turtle hatchlings, luring them inland and away from the sea where they succumb to predators, dehydration, and hatchlings can be attracted to and be burned by the flames.

Trash also is affecting the Beach at Guana Bay. The Nature Foundation has had the gracious help of various organizations and groups in cleaning up the beach, however there is a continuous source of trash being piled along the beach, which is detrimental for beach goers as is it for fauna, in particular sea turtles who can get entangled or who can digest the trash. The Nature Foundation suggests bins be placed along the beach with regular trash collection organized in order to curb the amount of garbage found on Guana Bay.

Driving on the beach is also a significant issue. During patrols the Nature Foundation has continuously noticed tire tracks of vehicles driving on the beach. This is illegal on St. Maarten and carries with it a fine. It is also very detrimental to beach stability and can also crush turtle nests through engine and tire vibration.

The Nature Foundation has communicated its findings to the relevant authorities in the hope that the matter can be splved. The Foundation urges the community to call its offices on 5444267 if they notice sea turtles nesting or if they notice illegal activities on any of the island’s beaches.

Nature Foundation Urges Community to Be Responsible During Easter, Carnival Holidays

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is urging the population to act responsibly in terms of garbage disposal and cleaning up after themselves during the carnival and Easter holidays. The Foundation has noticed a large amount of trash being left b behind by users of beaches and along the roadsides. “We noticed a large amount of trash being left behind by beach-goers and revelers alike and would like to urge the population to clean-up after themselves as any responsible, able-minded and mature citizen of Sint Maarten should,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager. “For example, we noticed a large amount of trash left behind in the district of Simpson Bay after the Causeway Jump Up and now that the Easter holidays are near we have seen an increase of trash being left behind on beaches. This especially hurts since we were so busy to ensure that the beaches were clean after the hurricane for people to use and to see that trash is being left behind is unacceptable,” continued Bervoets.

The Nature Foundation is also calling on Government and organizers of events and activities to ensure that there are enough waste disposal facilities available;” patrons who want to dispose of their garbage are sometimes unable to do so because there aren’t enough bins on the roadside or at the beaches or at event locations. Therefore we are asking that more emphasis is being placed on having proper garbage disposal facilities available during these events,” concluded Bervoets.

Photocaption: Trash left behind on Kim Sha Beach (Photo Caroline van Oost)

St Maarten Nature Foundation and EPIC organized successful Second Simpson Bay Lagoon clean-up

Last Sunday the St Maarten Nature Foundation, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) and the ‘A Bit at a Time’ initiative of Mason Chadwick organized a another successful cleanup event. Approximately 70 volunteers came out in order to clean the Simpson Bay Lagoon coastline. This cleanup saw the largest amount of trash ever collected for an event organized by the Foundations with eight fully loaded large trucks leaving with trash and hurricane debris. The island ‘Little Key’ and the lagoon area across from the airport entrance up to Sixt Car Rental are now completely clean of hurricane debris and garbage. The Foundations are urging the community to keep it that way.

A large thanks goes to the VROMI Ministry and Toontje (Claudius) Buncamper and team for the removal of all the trash and the safe traffic coordination. A special thanks goes to the St. Maarten Coast Guard team who due to their tireless effort left the entire coastline clean. Island Water World donated heavy duty gloves, reusable bags and t-shirts.

The organizations are asking the public to stay tuned for the following cleanup event, which will be the important wetland area Mullet Pond on the 24th of February. The community is also urged to responsibly dispose their garbage, trash laying around will end up in our marine and lagoon ecosystem impacting this fragile system and our own health.

Picture 1: Some of the volunteers and the St. Maarten Coast guard during the Lagoon cleanup event.

 

Picture 2: Volunteers working endless in order to clean up the tremendous amount of trash from the Lagoon coastline.

Picture 3: The VROMI Ministry workers are loading the trash and hurricane debris on large trucks.

Picture 4: Nature Foundation’s patrol boat fully loaded with hurricane debris from the island ‘Little Key’.

Second Simpson Bay Lagoon clean-up organized by EPIC and St Maarten Nature Foundation

After the great success of the first Simpson Bay Lagoon clean-up on the 14th of January, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) and the St Maarten Nature Foundation are announcing the next Simpson Bay Lagoon cleanup event. On Sunday the 4th of February the two Foundations will join forces to support the ‘A Bit at a Time’ initiative of Mason Chadwick in cleaning up parts of the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

“On Sunday we will be cleaning up the shores and lagoon area from Gateway Marina (where Pink Iguana used to be) up to Sixt Car rental across from the airport entrance. As part of the clean-up trash and debris will also be removed from the environmentally important island ‘Little Key’ in the Simpson Bay lagoon. Boats will be used to transport debris to shore. Volunteers are asked to meet at Gateway Marina, which is the marina across from the main entrance of the Airport, at 8 am and the cleanup will end at 12 noon. Reusable garbage bags and water for a refill will be provided by the Foundations,” reads a statement.

Volunteers are asked to bring protection such as a hat, strong shoes, working gloves and sunscreen. Volunteers are also asked to not forget their reusable drinking bottle for water refill. The Foundations would like to decrease the plastic input and therefore are asking that everyone use reusable bottles. The Foundations are hoping for a large attendance to make a difference for the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The Foundations are also requesting the help of the St Maarten Coast Guard, Police, VROMI department, salvage companies and the yachting community in order to remove the larger hurricane debris in a safe matter.

Picture 1: The red marking represents the area to be cleaned up on Sunday the 4th of February (Mason Chadwick Photo).

Picture 2: Large hurricane debris located at the Simpson Bay Lagoon which needs to be cleaned up (Mason Chadwick Photo).

Nature Foundation Teams up With Princess Cruise Lines, Fathom Travel and Carib Resorts to Clean up Guana Bay Beach

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.

Photocaption: Attendees at the cleanup event.

Over 100 Volunteers Show up for Simpson Bay Lagoon Clean-Up Event; Some Three Tons of Trash Removed

Last Sunday the Simpson Bay Lagoon clean up event organized by the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation and Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) received a massive turn out with more than one hundred volunteers coming together to make a difference for the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The collaborated event was initiated through the ‘A Bit at a Time’ initiative of Mason Chadwick; with volunteers already showing great on-going effort in cleaning up the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

‘We removed wood, fiberglass, zinc, boat parts, garbage, plastics and various other objects from the entire coastline from Dinghy Dock Bar up to the Causeway Bridge. Approximately three tons of hurricane debris, trash and garbage have been removed making a huge difference for the Simpson Bay Lagoon environment, read a joint Nature Foundation and EPIC statement.’

Many local and international organizations joined the event including the St. Maarten Coast Guard, staff from Aquatic Solutions, the St. Maarten Youth Brigade, Gulliver Middle School from Miami, volunteers from EPIC and the Nature Foundation and many more, were all working very hard and made it a great success. A special thanks goes to Island Water World for donation gloves, reusable bags and t-shirts, and 4 Oceans for donating, gloves, pick up sticks, reusable garbage bags and t-shirts. Mr. Toontje Buncamper of the VROMI Ministry and his team also assisted with the removal of the garbage.

The organizations are asking the public to stay tuned for subsequent clean-up events organized by EPIC and the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation. The community is also urged to join the continuous clean-up events organized by Mason Chadwick. Information of ‘A Bit at a Time’ clean-ups can be found on Mason Chadwick’s Facebook or requested via his Facebook messenger.

Picture 1: Volunteers in front of collected garbage pile.

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Picture 2: One of collected garbage piles of a total of 3 tons of collected debris.

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