St. Maarten scores excellent results in coastal cleanup

POSTED: 08/26/11 12:16 PM

Volunteers collect massive amounts of trash each year

GREAT BAY / By Hilbert Haar – St. Maarten is doing an excellent job as a participant in the annual coastal cleanup campaign compared to five other islands of the former Netherlands Antilles. On one day, volunteers picked up 21,193 items of debris, more than three and a half times as much as the combined total of the other four islands – Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire and Saba. This appears from figures presented in Tracking Trash, 25 years of action for the ocean, published by the organizer of the annual coastal cleanup, Ocean Conservancy International.
The coastal cleanup is the world’s largest volunteer effort to keep our ocean healthy. In St. Maarten, the Pride Foundation coordinates the action every year. The next coastal cleanup day is in just three weeks time, on Saturday September 17.
Worldwide, close to nine million volunteers from 152 countries have been collecting 145 million pounds of debris from shores and beaches every year. The volunteers record every single item they find, enabling Ocean Conservancy to build a unique database that has driven legislation to protect the marine environment.
In St. Maarten, the Nature Foundation recently signed a management contract with the government for the Man of War Shoal Marine Park, an indication that the government is serious about protecting the marine environment.
Vikki Spruill, Ocean Conservancy’s president and CEO emphasizes in the introduction to the report that there is a need to keep mobilizing beach cleanups. “But to truly solve this problem, we must prevent trash from reaching the water in the first place by working together to pioneer new and lasting solutions.”
Ocean Conservancy is about to launch the trash free seas alliance, an umbrella organization that unites forces from all walks of life for a common goal. Spruill is clearly happy with the results the organization has accomplished in the past twenty-five years, but she notes that there is no reason for complacency. “Now we must redouble our efforts. Together, we must use the next twenty-five years to secure a more enduring goal: a future in which the concentration of trash in our ocean has been consigned to the dustbin of history.”
The report highlights the most common finds among the coastal debris of the past 25 years: 52.9 million cigarette butts, 1.2 million balloons, 7.8 million plastic bags.
Especially single-use plastic grocery bags are a threat to marine life. Around the world, several initiatives to curb the use of plastic bags have sprung up. In 2007, San Francisco was the first city in the world to ban single-use plastic grocery bags. In Los Angeles, a 10-cent fee for plastic bags aims to make more than a million consumers switch to reusable shopping bags. When Ireland introduced a similar fee back in 2002, plastic-bag use dropped by 90 percent. On January 1 of this year, Italy became the first country to ban the use of plastic grocery bags nationwide. In St. Maarten no such measures have been taken – at least, not yet.
That such a measure is necessary becomes apparent from the Ocean Conservancy-data. In St. Maarten, volunteers picked up 668 plastic bags from our beaches on a single day, together with 683 paper bags. That’s only a small part of the plastics volunteers found: there were also close to 8,000 other items, like bottles, plates, straws and six-pack holders.
The Coastal cleanup in Curacao seems to be still in its infancy, given the fact that volunteers on that island just picked up 355 items, compared to 2,178 on Bonaire, 1,962 on Saba, and 1,141 on Aruba.
Pride Foundation president Jadira Veen said yesterday that she does not really get involved with what is going on in Curacao “They are less active there,” she said. “We have made an attempt to get Statia involved in the program a couple of years ago as well. I hope that they will do something on their own there.”

Did you like this? Share it:
St. Maarten scores excellent results in coastal cleanup by

Comments are closed.