The Plastic Trap
Most people don't think twice about the plastic bags that hold their groceries, but the fact is, they add significantly to our already overflowing landfill.
—Minister for Environment the Hon. Mark Scotland
Cayman's shoppers use some 12 million plastic bags annually, a number the Department of Environment (DoE) and the Corporate Green Team Network aim to shrink through Cayman Become, their Earth Day (Thursday, 22 April) plastic bag reduction campaign.
"The amount of solid waste we generate and the lack of recycling options are among the network's biggest environmental concerns. To tackle this problem, the decision was taken to target the excessive use of plastic bags," explained Alee Fa'amoe, Chief Operating Officer at Deloitte Cayman, who helped set up the network with the DOE.
With this in mind, the DOE and the Green Team Network are promoting reusable shopping bags at supermarkets. Foster's Food Fair, Hurley's and Kirk Supermarket have also agreed to discourage the use of plastic bags, by charging a five cent fee per single-use plastic bag - an initiative that will start this June.
"A similar fee introduced in January in Washington DC has already reduced monthly plastic bag use from an average of 22.5 million to 3 million. We hope to see similar results in Cayman," said DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie.
The Minister for Environment the Hon. Mark Scotland showed his support for the group's plans by joining Green Team Network members as they launched the campaign in stores: "Most people don't think twice about the plastic bags that hold their groceries, but the fact is, they add significantly to our already overflowing landfill.
"Charging for plastic bags is a strategy that is successfully used elsewhere. What is more, the plastic bag charge will be used for local environmental initiatives and finding more environmentally-responsible options to other supermarket packaging," the Minister said.
For information on the plastic bag reduction campaign, visit www.caymanbecome.ky.
For more information on the environmental impact of plastic bags, read Plastic Bags are Killing Us at www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/08/10/plastic_bags; The Real Cost of Plastic Bags at www.reusablebags.com/facts.php?id=2 and, Are Plastic Grocery Bags Sacking the Environment? at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/09/0902_030902_plasticbags.html
What other countries have done:
- Uganda and Bangladesh have banned all plastic bags.
- Taiwan, Kenya and South Africa have introduced charges on the use of plastic bags.
- China announced a nationwide ban on stores distributing free plastic bags from 1 June 2008. Thereafter supermarkets were required to charge for plastic bags. Also, the government banned production of ultra-thin bags less than 0.025mm thick.
- Ireland now levies a 15 cent per bag charge which reduced plastic bag usage by up to 95 percent.
- In America, San Francisco became the first city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets and pharmacies.
- Several UK urban centres banned plastic shopping bags (but the ban is not yet nationwide).
The Environmental Impact of Plastic Bags:
- Plastic bags cause the deaths of over 100,000 sea turtles and other marine animals every year; animals can mistake them for food.
- The manufacture of plastic bags adds tons of carbon emissions into the air annually.
- Approximately 60-100 million barrels of oil are needed to make the world's plastic bags each year.
- Most plastic bags take over 400 years to biodegrade. Some figures suggest that plastic bags may take over 1000 years to break down.
For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver