“Small, but Significant Step in Overall Waste Management”
Long in the making, the proposal to ban single-use plastic bags, has been submitted to parliament for its consideration. “This is a significant step towards effective waste management on St. Maarten. I’ve proposed to amend the General Police Ordinance and prohibit the use of single-use plastic bags. Single-use plastic bags have significant effects on ecosystems and a variety of species and have contributed significantly to the solid waste problems we experience on St. Maarten.” stated Wescot-Williams.
In my research, it became evident that there are different approaches possible to ban the use of single-use plastic bags. I chose the approach that Aruba has used with the amendment to the General Police Ordinance. Such bans on the use of plastic bags and other harmful plastic materials are widely in effect, both regionally and internationally. St. Maarten now joins in these efforts to reduce the harmful imprints these items leave on our environment.
The advocacy against plastic bags and other harmful materials has been waged for a long time by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation, who with supporting evidence, has made it clear that “garbage on land is the biggest source of maritime and coastal pollution.”
Maritime litter from plastics, styrofoam, metal, glass, and other material from land-based sources has been found in oceans around the world, also in the coastal waters of St. Maarten. The top ten items found during coastal cleanups around the world are: cigarettes and cigarette butts; food wrappers and food packaging; bottles made of plastic, glass, and aluminum; plastic bags; paper bags; caps and lids; plastic stirrers and straws and utensils such as cups, forks and spoons.
“For our own health and that of future generations; the preservation of our environment and the safe guarding of our economic viability, it is urgent to tackle the issue of waste management and mitigate the consequences for the population and the environment.”
The initiative draft law has been formulated in such a way that it affords the government the space to carefully consider the implementation date to allow for stakeholders’ consultations and an effective awareness campaign.
In addition, once in place, the ban will be the precursor for the ban of other harmful material, such as Styrofoam, plastic straws and the like.
“As I state in the elucidation to the draft law, we have to start somewhere”.
The success of this initiative will require the input and cooperation of all stakeholders, not only environmental organizations, but also suppliers, supermarkets, restaurants etc. There is also an individual and community responsibility we can all uphold, and in whatever way, small or big, do our part to sort, reduce, and reuse.
I applaud all initiatives to reduce the amount of waste we produce as an island. The more harmful the waste, the more urgently we should tackle its reduction and or removal.