Residents have seen and experienced the single-use plastics (SUP) ban as part of creating a more sustainable Saba. Enacted in 2020, the plan was released in phases, giving restaurants, vendors, stores, and other organizations time to prepare and adapt to the ordinance. Since the implementation, the Public Entity Saba has monitored and revised the list to include exemptions. The exemptions list was approved from July 1, 2022 through July 1, 2023.
The announcement of the exemptions list in 2022 was done in part to help balance Saba’s environmental goals with the economic considerations and impact on industries on the island, including food and beverage sales.
With the expiration of the exemptions list approaching, the Executive Council has extended the exemptions list from July 1, 2023, to July 1, 2024. The SUP ban exemptions made are as follows: Bio-plastic food containers can be used for soupy/saucy foods. For other foods (e.g., fries, burgers, etc.), cardboard containers should still be used. Plastic cups are allowed instead of bio-plastic cups, as their environmental benefit can currently not be achieved and suitable alternatives for alcoholic beverages are not available. Small plastic shot cups are allowed if used for alcohol consumption. Plastic bags can only be used for rat poison and other hazardous materials, or for hygiene purposes such as for bagging meat or fish. However, plastic sauce cups are not part of this exemption. While these are plastic cups, cardboard cups should be used for the sauce as suitable options are available. Cardboard or foil containers with a plastic lid are also not allowed. Containers are not allowed to have a plastic lid.
World’s Plastic Waste Problem
Currently, the world generates 2.01 billion metric tons of solid waste, of which 400 million metric tons is plastic. The majority of plastic waste derives from packaging, however, the world produced 139 million metric tons of SUP waste in 2021. While SUP bans are crucial to reducing the world’s plastic waste that ends up in oceans, beaches, and rivers, the largest contributor to reducing the world’s plastic waste is consumer mindfulness.
The plastic pollution problem is confounded on two major fronts – consumer consumption, and the recycling capabilities able to handle the increase in consumer goods that rely on plastic for packaging and overall consumption. In 2022, the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) met and agreed to create the world’s first global plastic pollution treaty. The UNEA consists of 193 members, all of who have agreed to the creation of a treaty, which will be finalized in 2024. The treaty will place restrictions on plastic production companies as well as on corporations that use SUP to sell products.
Why is this important for Saba? Despite its size, Saba contributes to the world’s plastic waste. Moreover, the geographical location of Saba makes direct ocean pollution a considerable threat. While the SUP exemptions list provides relief to local businesses, Public Entity persuades businesses and residents to continue looking for suitable alternatives to SUP and to be responsible in the disposal of waste.
The impact of the upcoming global plastic pollution treaty (2024) will reach Saba both directly and indirectly as the Netherlands is an active participant in the UNEA. Although the SUP ban and exemptions list is independent of the global plastic pollution treaty, Public Entity encourages all residents to reduce their dependence on SUP. Saba aims to lead the region by example in sustainability through the SUP ban, island clean-up projects, waste management strategies, as well as education and awareness campaigns.