Opinion: Plastic grocery bags and the environment

POSTED: 11/5/13 12:29 PM

Statistics from the European Union suggest that Dutch consumers on average use 71 single-use plastic grocery bags per year. In St. Maarten, this number could easily be true per month, though we have to admit that we do not know this for sure. As our man on the settlement committee in Curacao said last week: it is almost impossible to get information about anything in St. Maarten. That is also true for plastic bags.

The European Union wants to curb the use of plastic grocery bags drastically. St. Maarten wants the same thing, but here we have to define whom we mean by St. Maarten. Our environmental conscious citizens surely want it, and some politicians have even written draft legislation to ban plastic grocery bags. But guess what? Our politicians do not seem to be in any kind of hurry to push their legislation through parliament. A motion to ban the bags was passed in 2011 and ever since our brave representatives have been struggling to get something done. Or maybe they forgot.

Environmental conscious citizens have become tired of bringing up the subject over and over again and that is understandable. The ball – or rather the bag – is in the parliament’s park and everybody is able to see that absolutely nothing is happening there. So much for politicians that are so concerned about the environment.

The European commission wants to reduce the use of plastic bags by 80 percent – either through a ban or through a levy on their use. The European commissioner for the Environment Potocnik warns the member states that he will come with binding measures if the countries do not take action themselves.

In Ireland and Denmark consumers have to pay for their plastic bags. Danes now use on average four (4!) plastic bags per year, and the Irish 18.

Potocnik says that every year eight billion plastic bags end up on European streets, in rivers and oceans. Almost all North Sea birds (94 percent) have plastic in their stomachs and beaches along the Mediterranean, the North Sea and along the French coast regularly turn into waterbeds of plastic.

St. Maarten is not as large as Europe is, but it has a relatively high interest in banning plastic bags because the economy depends heavily on tourism. Few politicians seem to understand this, and if they do, they’ll have a hard time explaining why on earth they are not taking action.

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Comments (1)


  1. Brian says:

    When we travel to Sxm we always bring several cloth recyclable grocery bags …easier to carry , hold more and better from the environment

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