Published On: Wed, Dec 2nd, 2020

How do we tackle the issue of trash everywhere on St. Maarten?

~ How to deal with litterbugs? ~ What do you do when you see people littering? ~

Many people are seen littering the streets and beaches despite there being bins for the same. Throwing light on this, we interviewed people responsible for throwing trash and also those who pick up someone else’s trash.

“It’s a daily recurring headache, I’m really tired of it,” says a beach chair owner at Kimsha Beach. “Beer bottles, plastic cups, foam containers, the beach is littered with them every morning. That rubbish does not come from tourists, because there are hardly any. No. Locals, who get food and drink from the food stands on the parking lot, sit in groups on the beach and when they leave they do not collect their waste.”

He points to the new dumpsters that have been placed on the beach, on a concrete surface and securely locked against theft. “Why don’t people throw their rubbish in there? Those bins are there for a reason.” He shakes his head. “Do you know how much of that shit is blowing into the sea here?”

The beach chair owners at Mullet Bay have the same experience. “Really annoying,” one of them says. He points to five trash bins at Da Waterhole Beach bar. “Sufficient waste containers. But still…” According to the Mullet Bay beach boys, tourists care more about the environment than the St. Maarten resident does. “It is our own people who pollute the beach.”

Anyone who lives or works next to a construction site knows that not only locals throw things away carelessly. The mostly illegal construction workers also have a knack for throwing cans, plastic bottles, food containers and other waste on the ground. “Yes, yes, we will clean it up,” says one of the Venezuelans who works for a Guyanese contractor in St. Peters. There is a growing trail of waste around the construction site. In the absence of a toilet, the men relieve themselves in the bushes, as can be seen from an increasing number of piles of toilet paper in the undergrowth.

Also in Cole Bay, litter at construction sites is a thorn in the side of local residents, according to a post on Facebook. The writer asks what can be done when construction workers pollute the neighborhood. “I gave them a word today but I know they don’t care… Who to contact in that case please?”

Littering has got worse during the coronavirus pandemic. Besides the usual trash, gloves and masks are being chucked on the streets too. Understandably no one will feel comfortable picking one up and putting it in a bin. As masks, gloves and used water bottles could be spreading infection, these are posing a health risk. How to combat this issue? What will it take for people to feel responsible for public spaces? And what should government do to prevent a further rise in coronavirus litter?