By ALEXANDER HAWKINS
THE Raising Awareness Bahamas Landfill (RABL) group is organising a Facebook photo contest on Sunday - “International Bag Free Day” - to raise awareness of the dangers and negative environmental impacts of plastic bags usage.
Representatives of RABL told The Tribune that “participants are encouraged to take a selfie or a photo of themselves using reusable bags, boxes or other containers on Sunday, July 3, and post the photo on our Facebook page”. The three photos that receive the most ‘likes’ by 10pm will win a prize.
Shoppers are being discouraged from using plastic bags on Sunday and businesses are being encouraged not to offer them to their customers by RABL, who said instead resuable bags, boxes or other containers should be used.
Solomon’s Fresh Market will be among businesses supporting the initiative by cutting out the use of plastic shopping bags on Sunday.
“The impact of plastic bags on the environment is enormous,” Laura Paine, attorney and founder of RABL, told The Tribune. “They are made using non-renewable resources, either petroleum or natural gas and they take huge amounts of energy to manufacture. They don’t really break down in landfills or dump sites, and over time they release dangerous chemicals. They’re also difficult to recycle: in fact only one per cent of the plastic bags is recycled worldwide. They contribute to a widespread, global litter problem.”
The US Environmental Protection Agency says that “every bit of plastic ever made still exists”, explaining that in every square mile of ocean, there are 46,000 pieces of plastic. Millions of seabirds, whales, seals and dolphins as well as thousands of sharks die from the effects of plastic use each year. Most ocean pollution starts out on land and is carried by wind and rain to the sea. Once in the water, there is a near-continuous accumulation of waste.
RABL are hopeful that the Minister of the Environment will take the lead of countries like the United Kingdom and legislate to reduce the number of plastic bags used by the Bahamas.
“Our initiative is part of a bigger project to phase out plastic bags and styrofoam from the country,” Ms Paine said. “We have the support of many Bahamian environmental organizations such as BNT, BREEF, Friends of The Environment, One Eleuthera Foundation, Bahamas Plastic Movement … These groups are taking this initiative to the out islands as plastic pollution is a national issue that affects our archipelagic nation.
“Even though Renew Bahamas is not supporting this initiative, we know that plastic bags are a serious issue for them. Plastic bags and Styrofoam contaminate recyclable material such as plastic and cardboard making it less profitable to sell.”
She urged Kenred Dorsett, the Minister of the Environment, and his successors to take the issue of plastic pollution seriously. “Many countries in the world have already banned or imposed taxes on plastic bags. While the Government and Renew Bahamas have been focusing on recycling we believe that more focus should be placed on reducing the amount of waste that is generated and imported into the country every day. Reducing is the first step of the environmental hierarchy and at this time we haven’t seen any effective steps being taken to prevent waste production.”
RABL have also created a 60-second promotional/educational video for Sunday’s event for screening with other trailers at Galleria locations and at the Island House movie theatre.