Cayman 27’s year in review series continues with a look at Cayman’s budding plastic-free movement.
Inspired to activism in 2017, partly by the Plastic Ocean documentary, one woman’s push to eliminate single-use plastic bags kick started a wider movement that has removed more than 13,000 pounds of trash from Cayman’s beaches.
The numbers are staggering: Plastic Free Cayman and Red Sail Sports partnered to remove almost seven tons of waste during a series of 12 beach clean-ups in 2017 and 2018. On two occasions, volunteers combined to remove 2,000 pounds or more at a single clean up event.
What’s perhaps even more promising for the plastic-free movement in general: the organisation’s ability to motivate others to join the cause. While some clean-up events were better attended than others, Plastic Free Cayman averaged a turnout of around 80 volunteers per event over a 12 month period.
2018 was a big year for Plastic Free Cayman, picking up on 2017’s momentum.
Founded in 2017 as a grassroots organisation, Plastic Free Cayman officially became a registered not-for-profit charitable trust in June of 2018. Meanwhile, Plastic Free Cayman continued its ambitious series of monthly beach clean-ups launched in 2017 with partner Red Sail Sports.
For World Oceans Day in June, Cayman schoolchildren presented letters to environment minister Dwayne Seymour on the steps of the government administration building, many calling for a local ban on single-use plastic.
“Costa Rica has gone completely plastic free and I am hoping to see that with Cayman,” Cayman Prep year nine student Nadia Simmonds told Cayman 27 in June.
In September, Plastic Free Cayman introduced Cayman 27 viewers to the new Swedish craze of plogging, which combines jogging with picking up litter.
That same month, Jamaica announced its own ban on plastic bags, plastic straws, and Styrofoam products, a move applauded by Plastic Free Cayman founder Claire Hughes.
“That is absolutely fantastic,” said Ms. Hughes in a September interview. “But I think really, if you’re going to eliminate these single use items that we don’t really need, then it has to come from government, it really does.”
Plastic Free Cayman expanded its presence in the sister islands in October with the addition of Cayman Brac representative Cassandra MacDowell.
And in November, Plastic Free Cayman launched its new initiative, the 345 Pledge, which encourages individuals and businesses to take practical steps to limit or eliminate their use of plastics.
Now here is a statistic you may find eye-opening: At its September 2018 beach clean up in East End, Plastic Free Cayman volunteers collected 1,700 pounds of trash, which included just shy of 10,000 drinking containers. Not bad for two hours of work.
However, the overwhelming majority of these drinking containers, 89%, were plastic bottles.
Plastic Free Cayman’s first beach clean-up of 2019 is scheduled for Saturday 12 January 12th at Barefoot Beach.