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On Friday, October 7, 2016, Kenneth Mapp, governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands signed a proposal designed to eliminate the use of plastic bags in the territory beginning in 2017. Banning plastic bags would ultimately reduce litter and protect marine life.
The law requires businesses and organizations to use reusable bags or recyclable paper. Plastic bags will still be allowed where no acceptable substitute exists, such as for wrapping prepared foods or meats. The plastic bag regulations will be effective Jan 1, 2017 but penalties will not be assessed until April 1, 2017. This will give retailers time to make the transition.
In a related eco-item, Caribbean Compass reports that plastic drink bottles topped the list of items recovered from beaches in 16 Caribbean countries as part of the Ocean Conservancy’s 2015 International Coastal Cleanup. Roughly 36,000 people participated in cleaning up about 40,000 pounds of solid waste from waterways and beaches. It is reported that more than 28% of that was plastic drinking bottles.
Establishing the plastic bag ban places the Virgin Islands in a leadership position for the rest of the region to follow. Kenneth Map calls the new law a victory on behalf of public health and the environment.
Here are 7 easy ways you can help reduce plastic pollution:
- Bring your own reusable grocery bags with you when you shop.
- Stop using bottled water
- Use a refillable dispenser for your hand soap and dishwashing liquid
- Use a reusable container instead of sandwich bags
- Say no to single-serving packaging, buy in bulk instead
- Use silverware instead of plastic utensils, keep a set at the office and bring a set on a picnic
- Avoid plastics that are not readily recyclable: #3(pvc), #4(ldpe), #5(pp), #6(ps)