In 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
Yes, 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
Growing 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.