Green Pages

Ban the Bag

By Amy Avenant, DECR Environment Outreach Coordinator

Single-use plastic shopping bags will soon be banned in TCI.

Single-use plastic shopping bags will soon be removed from supermarkets and shops across the TCI. The government-approved import ban will come into effect from January 1, 2019, with a ban on the use of single- use plastic bags by retailers to come into effect on May 1, 2019. There is a list of alternative bags which can be used by retailers from May 1, 2019, on which reduced custom tariff rates on some will be applied. Although some residents and visitors are waiting with baited breath for the plastic bag ban to kick into gear in the TCI, others find themselves anxious about what this would really mean for them and their households. I’m here to tell you ‘“Fear no more!”
Let’s start with the “Why?” Why do we want to get rid of these convenient little carriers? They are useful for many reasons beyond carrying groceries out of the store: They double as bin liners, are great for picking up your dog’s doo-doo, save any fragile hairstyle from the rain and are recyclable. Right? Wrong!
They may do all of the above, but their harm far outweighs their usefulness. On average, it is estimated that one person can use up to 170 plastic bags every year. Of this, 150 million end up as litter, as only 3% of them are currently being recycled and 200,000 bags are dumped in landfills every hour. In China, 3 billion single-use plastic bags are used every day. Worldwide, about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute!
“So what,” you might ask? More frequently we are seeing marine animals wash up on shore, with bellies filled with our convenience. Ocean Crusaders estimate that 100,000 marine creatures each year die from plastic entanglement and these are the ones found. Approximately 1 million sea birds also die from plastic. A plastic bag can kill numerous animals because they take so long to disintegrate. Plastic does not biodegrade, no matter how many times we stamp “biodegradable” on the bag. That means that as it breaks up in our oceans, it has the potential to exponentially harm! And not only sea creatures.
The World Economic Forum’s research has revealed that 90% of our table salt is contaminated with plastics, and—which may be even more alarming—microplastics (the name we’ve given to the VERY tiny pieces that have broken down, but not degraded) are now being found in our poop! The full implications of this are yet to be seen, but we can just look at what it is doing to our marine and terrestrial friends and wonder if we would suffer a similar fate?
However, there is hope! Our region has not seen a massive reaction to plastics, in comparison to the rest of the world, but TCI is one of the leaders on the frontline of the war against plastic! Resorts and restaurants are now serving drinks with paper straws (or no straws at all) and are banning the single-use plastic water bottles, instead offering guests a reusable souvenir that may be filled up at water stations around the resort. So those are the “big guys” making a change, but we, the little guys, the individuals, have a responsibility too. Not just to our environment, or ourselves, but to the generation to follow after us. The plastic bag ban is a simple and easy way to ensure that we are all (whether it is convenient or not) becoming custodians of our natural environment.
It’s all about a change of habit. Speaking from experience, once you break your old habit (using single-use shopping bags) and get into the routine of putting the re-usable carriers in your car, after using them for your regular shop, then it really is “as easy as that.”
I am here to give you the permission to moan and groan, but keep an open mind and remind yourself that your inconvenience may mean the world to the planet’s future. Start packing your car with those re-usable bags today, making it a habit for a lifetime.

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Aysha Stephen is Grand Turk’s newest artistic sensation, renowned for her iconic “Cool Donkeys” paintings. Her creations are quite the hit with visitors to TDB Fine Arts Gallery. It recently opened within the Turks & Caicos National Museum on Grand Turk and is dedicated to showcasing art “Made in TCI.

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