Is Bonaire Ready to Control Plastic Bag Pollution

Local project says it’s as simple as “Bring Your Own Bag”

A local sustainability project is betting that island residents want to tackle plastic bag pollution on Bonaire. And the project, Boneiru Duradero, plans to make it as easy as possible.

Single use plastic bags are an increasingly visible source of litter and pollution.

“It’s so easy to use single-use plastic bags – they’re free and plentiful,” said Sharon Bol, project coordinator of Boneiru Duradero and board member of Tene Boneiru Limpi and Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, “But it’s also pretty easy to find alternatives, and we think Bonairians are ready.”

Indeed, evidence is mounting that Bonaire may be getting tired of plastic pollution. A Facebook page called “Styrofoam Free Bonaire” has begun posting tips on using reusable containers and bags for takeaway foods and groceries. Created by a local resident in July, the site quickly attracted over 350 members.

But while visual pollution is concerning residents, that’s not all that’s worrying them. Plastic bags pose an increasing threat to the health of people and animals, on land and in the sea.

In a seven-day period in late August, concerned divers posted seven online reports of large amounts of plastic garbage floating in Bonaire’s lagoons and near-shore reefs. The divers expressed frustration at the amount of floating plastic and their inability to collect it all.

To combat the plastic debris, some dive operations host both underwater and beach cleanups that attract increasing numbers of divers every year. In the first 9 months of this year, volunteers with one dive company, Dive Friends Bonaire, collected over 30 cubic meters of plastic debris.

A recent study reported that 90% of seabirds have ingested plastic. Sea turtles, fish, and other marine animals also mistake plastic bags for food, and once swallowed, the bags prevent food uptake, causing starvation. Such losses reduce available food for human consumption, and can cause declines in water quality and the marine environment that draws tourism to local economies like that of Bonaire.

For humans, the threat may turn out to be as bleak: plastic breaks down in the marine environment into microscopic fragments that accumulate in the bodies of food fish. Human health authorities are investing millions of dollars to study the health threats posed by eating plastic-contaminated food and water.

 

Written by Marlene Robinson, Thank you Marlene 

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