The Saba Supermarket Challenge was a resounding success with 15 winners rewarded for their positive actions of using a reusable shopping bag instead of plastic bags for their groceries at participating Supermarkets, Big Rock Market, Corner Store, Corner Imports, KawVaw and My Store.
The GEBE Supermarket Challenge inspired the participating supermarkets in Saba took the program one step further by implementing a bag charge of Naf 0.10 per plastic bag to further deter shoppers from using plastic bags. The new charge went into effect on September 15, 2009. Charging for plastic bags is an approach used by many countries to promote the use of reusable bags while still making plastic bags available for customers who do not have bags. Le Grande Marche and Cost U Less Supermarkets on St. Maarten have begun distributing their own reusable shopping bags as an alternative for customers to move away from using plastic. Recently Cake House Supermarket in St. Maarten stopped offering plastic bags completely.
Commissioner of Energy and Sanitation, Bruce Zagers, and Saba Conservation Foundation Board Member, Carl Buncamper, joined the GEBE Saba Team of Mark Zagers, Shaun Johnson and Beverly Every, in making their rounds to the supermarkets to surprise shoppers as they were leaving the supermarkets and inspect their bags.
Commissioner Zagers commended the initiative by NV GEBE and the participating supermarkets for the unique approach to environmental awareness. "As Commissioner of Energy and Sanitation, I fully support the initiative started by NV GEBE. Their proactive approach of introducing reusable bags is not only good for the environment, but also benefits Saba as a whole. It is positive to see that the grocery stores have also joined forces with GEBE in order to make this project a success. This program is a step in the right direction towards local Environmental Awareness. In order for our Island to continue to be called "The Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean", projects like these should come to the forefront. As a Government we fully support this initiative and will become involved in future projects in the near future."
"There are currently plans in the pipeline for starting a recycling process for the Island. I believe anything is possible if we’re all united under the same ultimate goal: to keep Saba pristine and beautiful as God gave it to us."
Plastic bags are often found littering the environment and are known to kill marine life who mistake the bags for food. Plastic bags also do not biodegrade but remain in the environment for up to 1000 years.
GEBE distributed 10,000 reusable bags on St. Maarten, Saba and Statia with the goal of removing up to 16 million plastic bags on the three islands over a period of two years. The GEBE St. Maarten Supermarket Challenge was held in February and March 2009 with nine participating supermarkets and 27 prizes. The program is slated for Statia as well.
Due to the popularity of the program in the community and the support from the supermarkets, GEBE will be repeating the program with an additional 20,000 bags in 2010.