Change Isn’t Always Easy (Plastic Bag Ban in the Virgin Islands)

Change Isn’t Always Easy (Plastic Bag Ban in the Virgin Islands)

USVI Plastic Bag BanIn August 2014, California was the first state to enforce the law that banned the use of plastic bags in retail stores. On January 1, 2017, the Virgin Islands, like many other states, will follow suit and enforce the law to ban plastic bags.

For years, many have voiced their concerns about the hazardous effects of plastic bags.

Others say, “but I don’t see plastic bags along the roadsides,” which is true. This is because of companies who regularly clean debris from our roads. Unfortunately, the issue that has caused the ban to be carried out in the Virgin Islands is because of the harm it causes to our marine life.

Harm to Marine Life

“Plastic bags are a serious problem for the marine environment and a major component of litter throughout the territory,” said Doug White of the V.I. Recycling Partnership. DPNR Commissioner Dawn Henry, Interim Waste Management Authority Director Steve Aubin, and others agreed in a hearing in June, 2016.”

– St. Thomas Source: Plastic Bag Ban Moving Forward in Senate by Bill Kossler, June 20, 2016

Pros and Cons

Here is a list of a few reasons gathered as to why plastic bags should and should not be banned.


  • They are convenient
  • They are durable and can be used more than once
  • They take up less space in a landfill than paper bags
  • It takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper. (Recycling rates of either type of disposable bag are extremely low, with rates of 10-15% for paper and 1-3% for plastic.)


  • Hazardous to marine life
  • Pollutes our environment
  • A costly part of litter
  • Consumers won’t recycle
  • 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year, worldwide. About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • A single plastic bag can take 20 to 1,000 years to degrade
  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags. This costs retailers about $4 billion a year
  • Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down

Our Part

noplasticbagYes, many of us may agree and disagree with some of the reasons listed above, but have we done or part?

Well, for many businesses in the territory, to disagree or agree is not optional. All businesses are expected to be in full compliance by April 1, 2017, or they will be fined accordingly.

For many business owners, the transition from plastic to paper or reusable bags will be easy. The concern is more for their customers.

The Challenges We Face

Many locals like myself who frequent St. Thomas for bulk shopping might forget their reusable bags by habit.

I did on December 19th. As I rushed to do my last minute shopping for Christmas, I got on the ferry with not a worry in the world. As I approached the counter in Kmart, it dawned on me, one of my friends recently expressed her concern about the abrupt stop to plastic bag use at the Kmart check-out.

I honestly panicked. How was I supposed to get all these items I was about to purchase to the ferry in one piece? Luckily for me, the friendly lady who was cashing me out must have seen the look on my face. She reassured me that they still had a few bags for customers who really need them. Now that was a close one!

So remember, if you’re going shopping to get your household supplies or groceries to complete that family dinner, grab your reusable bags!

Many stores have been selling reusable bags at their counters or giving them away to help customers be prepared. For tourist visiting, remember to grab the courtesy bags found in most villas or hotels before going shopping. It will make getting your goods home easier.

It’s all about preserving these islands so that we can enjoy them for many more years to come!

About Gyasi Liburd

Gyasi LiburdGrowing up on the island of St. John and now raising my 3 kids here, I am still amazed every day by its beauty. One of the best feelings in the world is to be able to quickly escape to a wonderful view of the ocean, sit under the sun and enjoy the calmness, peace and tranquility. Yes, I love my island!

I have a wide breadth of experience in all facets of the tourism industry. I’ve worked in the villa management business, the ferry business, the retail business and now for one of the biggest grocery store businesses on St.John. I’ve learned that in a second its possible to meet the greatest people you will ever meet on the planet. Everyone has a story and I love hearing them all!

I hope to share my stories and experiences as a Virgin Islander and give you a glimpse of what its like to live and raise a family here. Please ask me questions in the comment sections and I’ll do my best to get back to you quickly.


Post Discussion

15 thoughts on “Change Isn’t Always Easy (Plastic Bag Ban in the Virgin Islands)

  1. Suzanne

    If we can get the word out to people who travel to our beautiful USVI maybe we can start something! It’s easy to pack reusable bags bought from where ever people may be visiting from! This might start friendly conversations!

    4 years ago

    1. Gyasi Liburd

      Hello Suzanne the grocery store where I work at Dolphin Gourmet Market is currently working on ways to make reusable bags available in the villas for visiting guest. It’s a small step but it’s a start to helping everyone ease into this new change. We also give out free bags a couple month ago to customers shopping at the stores.

      4 years ago

  2. Lehua Youngblood

    Lived in STX for years and live in Maui Hawaii now. Stores in Maui sell resusable bags at the check out counter. Some expensive. Most not. Various sizes. Some are even made for cool items and do their job well. All bags are attractive. Some are even collectable. Targets famous hibiscus bag is the best. Its cost $1.00. I keep a varied collection in the car. Will never go back to plastic or paper. Aloha STX. Missing my favorite island.

    4 years ago

  3. Karla Allen

    Well done, Gyasi! We need more of your generation looking out for our islands!! Happy New Year!!

    4 years ago

  4. Sherrolyn

    At VIVA Villas starting later this month every villa will have reusable bags for guest use! We have to work together to protect our Islands for future generations of locals and guests.

    Great job Gyasi

    4 years ago

    1. Gyasi Liburd

      Great Sherrolyn that’s one way to help encourage tourist to use recyclable bags.

      4 years ago

  5. Kelli Rattz

    Great job Gyasi!!! Do you know if the biodegradable bags will still be OK to use in restaurants for our to go orders. Thanks sweetie.

    4 years ago

    1. Gyasi Liburd

      Kelli this is the bill number (BILL NO. 31-0379) please check it out so you can have a better understanding of the particulars of the plastic bag ban. I hope this helps you and also keep in mind you can also contact VIWMA (340)715-9100 for more information.

      4 years ago

  6. Shirley Bierkamp

    Wonderful job!!

    4 years ago

    1. Gyasi Liburd

      Thank you!

      4 years ago

  7. Shiree Roberts

    Well done Gyasi!

    4 years ago

    1. Gyasi Liburd

      Thank you!

      4 years ago


    This is awesome! Great job Gyasi!

    4 years ago

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    Helpful info. Lucky me I found your web site by accident, and I am surprised why this accident did
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    4 years ago

  10. Anna Fisher

    Thank you, Gyasi, great article!

    4 years ago

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