Local environmental groups have expressed disappointment over the cancellation of the second meeting of the government-initiated single-use plastic steering committee and the absence of a rescheduled date.
The meeting had been originally scheduled for Wednesday, 11 Dec., but according to a joint Plastic Free Cayman and Protect Our Future statement last week, the meeting was cancelled earlier that day until further notice by a Ministry of Health representative, due to insufficient numbers to make up a quorum.
The steering committee was established by Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour, who committed to look at ways to address plastic pollution and local dependence on single-use plastics. Plastic Free Cayman questioned government’s commitment to addressing environmental concerns about the widespread use of plastics.
The group said that a list of members shows 29 representatives form the committee and 13 people had committed to attend, including three volunteers from Plastic Free Cayman.
The first of the two meetings was also cancelled and later rescheduled.
“PFC has not received any minutes from the first meeting, nor was an agenda circulated for the second. As yet, no clear mission statement, goals, responsibilities or action points have been set out for the committee. Neither has any documentation been provided which indicates how the chosen stakeholders were selected, how decisions are made or what number of members are required to make up a quorum,” the group said in its statement.
The Cayman Compass reached out to the Ministry of Environment for comment on the delayed meeting, but had not received a response by press time.
The group, which is leading the charge to have single-use plastics banned in Cayman, said “government is clearly falling behind the region in policy implementation on single-use plastics”.
“A multitude of international organisations provide readily available online resource tools to assist policymakers. Global agencies, such as the United Nations, have made publicly available reports, recommendations, guidelines and resources to assist local governments tackle this planet-wide plastic crisis,” the group said in its statement.
It said its ‘345 Plastic Free Pledge’ is garnering support in the community. Those who take the pledge commit to live a more plastic-free life.
Plastic pollution continues to be an issue plaguing local shorelines.
“On 7 Dec., 25 volunteers attended PFC’s monthly beach clean-up, removing 500 lbs of trash from Colliers Beach in East End in under two hours, with most of it in the form of plastic bottles and Styrofoam. On-island visitors passing the group clean-up effort Saturday morning were quick to thank the volunteers but did not hesitate to share their horror at the unsightly litter covering Cayman’s beaches,” the group said.
It said government’s “passive stance on this serious matter is extremely alarming”.
The group pointed out that American Academy of Pediatrics has issued warnings that toxic chemicals used for food packaging can interfere with a child’s hormones, growth and development.
“Life-long health problems, such as changing the time of puberty, affecting male genitalia development, decreasing fertility, affecting nervous and immune systems, increasing childhood obesity and contributing to cardiovascular disease, are only some of the serious health effects of chemical exposure from food packaging highlighted by the AAP,” the group said as it pressed the need for action.
According to the United Nations Caribbean Environment Programme, 21 countries in the wider Caribbean have single-use plastic bans already in place.
For the Protect Our Future students, a firm resolution on plastics cannot come soon enough.
“The world will begin to see our island as underdeveloped and not environmentally friendly. Is this what we want? Other Caribbean islands have already completed this process.
Banning single-use plastics will protect our environment, look better for our island, and could even become a source of income. If fines are implemented onto people that bring single-use plastics onto our island, this money could then be invested back into our communities,” said Protect Our Future member Ben Somerville