VI Plastic Waste Reduction is Here!

Part 6 in an East End Marine Park Series
by Hillary Lohmann, Friends of the East End Marine Park.
Trivia question: what do the USVI have in common with Hawaii, American Samoa, Canada and Morocco (among others)?!?
A ban on single-use plastic bags!
A USVI legislative bill (passed late last year, implemented January 1, and enforced as of April 1) prohibits businesses from providing single-use, non-recyclable bags to customers at checkout. Businesses that still offer such bags at checkout face a fine of $500-$1,000 for each day of noncompliance! The goal of the legislation is to reduce litter and protect marine life.
Plastic bags are made of material that takes many, many years to decompose. ‘Decompose’ is a bit misleading though, as the bags retain their harmful chemical characteristics when they break down. The result is tons (literally) of bits of toxic garbage small enough to seep into the ground and water…and stay there. And that only accounts for when they are disposed of properly! Plastic bags often wind up in trees, waterways, sewers and oceans. Animals like birds and turtles mistake the plastic for food and/or shelter, which can end in entanglement, suffocation, starvation and death.
40 billion single-use checkout bags are used each year in the United States, the production of which requires 14 million trees and 12 million barrels of oil. A reusable bag has the potential to replace 1,000 single-use bags over its lifetime!
So, what are we supposed to use to carry our purchased goods home now? There are many businesses and organizations on island with products available to fill the new gap at checkout. For example, the Friends of St. Croix East End Marine Park have insulated bags, perfect for frozen items or warm dishes and picnics as well as room-temperature goods! St. Croix Environmental Association has canvas totes featuring local species which are perfect for fresh produce or quick stop-and-shop trips. Businesses like Plaza Extra, Pueblo, K-Mart and Seaside Market & Deli offer replacement bags as well.
It does take a bit of training to remember your bags, but keeping some in the car so they are always accessible is a very good solution. Three cheers for the USVI for acknowledging this issue, identifying and agreeing to a solution, and rising to the challenge of making it a reality! That goes for the government, who provided the legal framework for this progress in sustainability, and for the local community of organizations and businesses who created products that make it easy (and trendy!) to get in line.
Friends of the East End Marine Park
Facebook / Friends.STXEEMP
VI Plastic Waste Reduction is Here!

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