Caribbean Island of Dominica Wages War Against Plastic

Caribbean Island of Dominica Wages War Against Plastic

Dominica is one of the many gorgeous places on Earth, and the country prides itself on its beauty. Around it are blue waters and amazing rainforest with diverse flora and fauna that tourists usually call it “Nature Island”.

To keep it beautiful and pristine, this small part of Caribbean has decided to take another step. By January 2019, this island is going to fully ban plastic, styrofoam, and single-use food containers. This plan has been described as one of the world’s most comprehensive plastic bans.

The complete list of what kind of plastic or styrofoam items that will be banned hasn’t been finalized or released yet. With this, however, there will be no more plastic utensils like straws, forks and knives as well as styrofoam cups and containers in Dominica. At all.

Plastic forks by Hoitintungs Wikimedia Commons
Plastic forks by Hoitintungs Wikimedia Commons

Dominica’s government stated that they’ve made this decision comes from their efforts to restrict imports of non-biodegradable containers. This attempt hopes to make restaurants and stores stop distributing them.

The prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in a statement, “Dominica prides itself as the ‘Nature Isle,’ We must in every way deserve and reflect that designation. The issue of solid waste management affects that perception and we continue to grapple with it.”

While other nations and countries (and companies) have made efforts to get rid of certain plastic items like plastic bags, Dominica wants to be the world’s first climate resilient nation.

The government hopes that through this sustainable policies, they will protect Dominica’s valuable tourism industry and also make the island more resilient to hurricanes. In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island’s infrastructure and the government doesn’t want that to happen again.

devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Dominica
devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Dominica

“Extreme weather events are now more frequent and intense, brought on by climate-change impacts that are real, visible, devastating and unrelenting,” Said Skerrit in the budget address.

In last year’s press conference, Skerrit said, “Our devastation is so complete that our recovery has to be total. And so we have a unique opportunity to be an example to the world, an example of how an entire nation rebounds from disaster and how an entire nation can be climate resilient for the future.”

He went on, “We did not choose this opportunity. We did not wish it. Having had it thrust upon us, we have chosen actively and decisively to be that example to the world. We must rebuild and reset our society and economy and protect our environment in order to achieve a new, more resilient Dominica.”

Why this ban is important for Dominica

Sperm whale mother and calf by Gabriel Barathieu Wikimedia Commons
Sperm whale mother and calf by Gabriel Barathieu Wikimedia Commons

The island has warm waters. It makes Dominica one of Earth’s most popular summer habitats for migrating sperm whales. So it’s most opportune that this island is waging war against plastic. These marine mammal populations, as well as other marine life, need to be protected from plastics that have frequently harmed them.

Shane Gero, a National Geographic explorer, has spent 15 years studying sperm whales in this island. He said that the waters in Dominica still look crystal clear. However, he can still spot floating plastic. He said, “Animals are curious, particularly the calves. “Sometimes they’ll play with these clamshell styrofoam lunch boxes.”

Gero has observed how sperm whales live and he has seen the dynamics among whale groups all this time. In the past several years, however, some calves didn’t survive. When in a world without plastic, sperm whales can live as long as 70 years.

The cause why sperm whale calves died prematurely is still unknown. Gero said that the issue is still being research. But one thing for sure, wildlife (especially marine life) and plastic can’t coexist together. There have been dead, washed ashore marine mammals and whales in Thailand and Spain with lots of plastic inside their stomachs.

A 2015 study published in Science stated that there are eight millions tons of plastic that gets into our mother Earth’s oceans every year. Dominica hopes that its island’s waters will still be pristine so that it can provide a refuge for some of ocean’s animals.

Photographer Brian Skerry from National Geographic has shot photographs of marine wildlife all over the world. And he now see how plastics are a real threat to ocean wildlife that he tries to take a picture of.

Skerry said, “These are places that took days to get to from remote places like Fiji, and yet I would be on these uninhabited islands that should have been pristine and you’re up to your calves in some plastic trash. That just shows how much plastic is in the ocean.”

Not only Dominica

EU plans to reduce or ban plastic items
EU plans to reduce or ban plastic items

As mentioned above, this is not the first time that efforts to eliminate plastic are made. This year, European Union unveiled an ambitious new proposal that attempt to reduce or completely prohibit all single-use plastic items.

By 2025, all people of France will only use recycled plastic. The French government official said that the country pledges and plans to introduce a penalty system to make the costs of consumer goods that come with packaging of non-recycled materials higher.

France became the first country in the world that banned disposable plastic cups and dishes in 2016 (the law takes effect by 2020). We can safely remain hopeful of this country’s efforts to eliminate plastic waste.

United Kingdom, on the other hand, has planned to ban cotton buds, plastic drinking straws, and other single-use plastics by 2019. They’ve also been charging plastic use, and interestingly, there’s been a remarkable decline in the number of bags in UK’s beaches since plastic bag tax was introduced in 2015. This shows that charges are effective in some countries.

Starbucks Coffee in Dortmund by Sven2512 Wikimedia Commons
Starbucks Coffee in Dortmund by Sven2512 Wikimedia Commons

This year, New Zealand and Australia also came up with plans to gradually discontinue the use of plastic bags. There had been a bit of controversy in Australia regarding this, when a major grocery store called Coles backed out of the ban.

Well-known, big companies such as Starbucks and Disney have announced new plans to get rid of plastic straws, too. McDonald’s has stated to be more eco-friendly in terms of their packaging, and big grocery stores also has some initiatives to make the world a better place. All in all, there has been constant efforts to save our mother Earth with minimum to zero waste.

Do you think what Dominica’s trying is to achieve is feasible or the other way around? Does your government do anything to reduce plastic? Tell us in the comments below. To read another related article, make sure to click here.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.