Having just returned from Little Cayman, the Plastic Free Cayman team have had a successful two-day clean-up where more than 30 volunteers managed to remove more than 3,100 pounds of rubbish from the shores of the smallest of the Cayman Islands.
The environment group partnered with The Little Cayman National Trust, CCMI, the Department of the Environment, Southern Cross Club, Little C Tours and Protect Our Future for the two day clean-up event last weekend, focusing on Charles Bright (removing 830 pounds), Mary’s Bay (1700 pounds removed) and Owen Island (600 pounds removed).
Most of the debris collected was plastic and microplastics, along with hundreds of shoes that were also collected. The group said much of the plastic, such as bottle caps, was now becoming microenvironments for various species and even baby mangroves were growing through and around plastic bottles. Each year Plastic Free Cayman surveys the sister islands in an effort to track the amount of plastic pollution removed from various sites.
“The amount of trash found at each location was tremendous. Mary’s Bay could easily be mistaken for a small landfill,” they confirmed.
Ben Somerville, Leader of Protect Our Future, said that the volume of rubbish found was “heartbreaking”.
“While it was clear that the vast majority of this garbage wasn’t from locals, but was from neighbouring islands and brought to shore by the ocean (evident through the various languages of the products and the companies), the amount of plastic pollution on this island made it clear that change must occur immediately,” Ben stated.
He believed that if an island as small as Little Cayman was harbouring hundreds of thousands of pounds of waste on their beaches, the plastic epidemic was an issue larger than most could comprehend.
“We hope that our findings from this weekend's trip act as a call to action for our community and Government,” he advised. “The use of plastics must come to an end. If one of the most untouched and natural places on the planet has been impacted so severely, it should be clear that plastics must be banned immediately in the Cayman Islands, and we must begin to rely on alternative products.”
Ben went on to say that the preservation of Cayman’s environmental and cultural health was a “top priority”, and his group was willing to work for its preservation.
“However, this has become an issue that we cannot tackle alone,” he warned, “but must have the backing of our Government and community, and must work together to all keep Cayman the beautiful and diverse country we know it to be."
Amber Ebanks, student volunteer and Protect Our Future member, said that plastic waste was not the only problem the islands were facing, it was overall waste consumption.
“From grocery shopping to purchasing single use items, this trip has shown me just how much of a problem has affected our island and our marine ecosystem. It’s time we reconsider the impact of our waste consumption and think of the effects this will cause not only on island but globally," Amber said.
Dejea Lyons, Protect Our Future Leader, underscored the above sentiment: “As people of such beautiful islands, we have to stop being part of the problem and start being a part of solution. If we just make simple changes like using reusable bags when shopping or a bamboo toothbrush, we will stop being a part of the plastic epidemic.”
Dejea encouraged more people to lend a hand in the fight.
“Coming out and lending a hand in the monthly beach clean-ups is such a huge help,” she confirmed. “It has to be a collective effort. Coming together as a community is the most effective way to combat this issue.”
Plastic Free Cayman founder Claire Hughes continues to push for a National Clean-up campaign and plastic ban policy similar to what has been seen on other Caribbean islands. There may be new found hope with the upcoming Government to address this issue, she said.