Philipsburg, Sint Maarten – Member of Parliament Ardwell Irion questioned the tackling of the new legislation regarding a ban on single-use plastics after last Thursday’s Parliament meeting on the issue. He stated that the current government’s position does not take into consideration existing laws related to waste management for Country St. Maarten.
In Thursday’s meeting, as has been the case several times, it was stated that new legislation is needed before St. Maarten can enact a ban on plastic. Single-use plastics are one of the largest contributors to landfill overfill and oceanic pollution and several countries in the world, including in the Caribbean region, have issued bans on their use. St. Maarten has been debating enacting such a ban locally for some time now, but MP Irion believes that there is a missed opportunity while the discussion continues.
“A ban on single-use plastics is incredibly important,” he states, “but St. Maarten has a Waste Ordinance in place which is not being effectively enforced right now. Waste collection has been and continues to happen in an ad hoc and inefficient way.”
On 23 February 1993 the Waste Ordinance for St. Maarten, then still a part of the Netherlands Antilles, was passed. The Ordinance outlines every area of waste management and their accompanying disposal requirements, ranging from residential waste to car wrecks, for both citizens and the public sector. Enforcing and complying with the contents of the ordinance is something Irion states the country has struggled with since prior to Hurricane Irma.
“There are no awareness efforts to inform the general public of this ordinance and how it states everyone should dispose of their waste,” Irion continued. “And this lack of knowledge contributes to our larger issue with waste on the island and that is, capacity. We need to seriously consider the existing structure for waste management. As we continue to grow in population size, both on-island and transient, waste production will also increase.”
Irion mentioned that residents in several areas on the island had frequent complaints about the timeliness of waste collection. In densely populated areas, and dependent on the contracted company, waste can sit for up to five days without collection. Irion speculated that an evaluation may be necessary to assess if there is enough capacity with the contracted companies to adequately handle the existing demand for waste collection. In addition, proper plans should be made on how the ban on single-use plastics will be enforced once the legislation is in place.
“A single-use plastics ban should be any country’s goal,” Irion concluded, “but making sure that what exists is actually working, combined with awareness campaigns for the general public, will make that transition smoother.”