The beaches on Bonaire are ten times as polluted as the North Sea beaches in the Netherlands. More than 50,000 pieces of waste have been counted on the coast of the island in one year.
Cigarette butts in particular are the culprit, according to a civil science program of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Clean Coast Bonaire. Over a year, cigarette butts were more than half the waste left in the coastal area of Bonaire.
"It's much more than I expected," says Merijn Hougee, plastic expert on Bonaire at the WWF. "Especially small pieces of plastic: due to the influence of sun and wind, plastic breaks down into smaller pieces. In addition, many people do not know that cigarette filters are made of plastic, and are therefore dangerous for the sea."
Together with dozens of local volunteers, Hougee investigated the washed up and abandoned waste on Bonaire for a year. Mapping this waste has shown that the coastal area of Bonaire is ten times more polluted than the North Sea beaches in the Netherlands. An average of 3,345 waste items per 100 meters were found in Bonaire. In the same study in the Netherlands, there were 313.
More pollution from tourism
That this coastal area is much more polluted is due to several factors, according to Hougee. "The island is close to pretty close to South America, and there are many ocean currents, which means that a lot of waste ends up on the east coast." But also tourist beaches on the west side of the island are heavily polluted.
This tourism is responsible for a large part of the pollution in the coastal area. "The weather always lends itself to a beautiful beach day. People are much more outside than in the Netherlands, and if you spend a lot of time outside, it makes sense that you create more waste there."
Plastic is a worldwide problem
Worldwide we have to contend with major nuisance caused by stray plastic. For example, 60 percent of the 78,000 waste pieces that were collected during World Cleanup Day in the Netherlands consisted of plastic and Boyan Slat is trying to remove plastic from the Pacific Ocean with his The Ocean Cleanup.
On Bonaire, the WWF wants to map the waste problem together with Clean Coast Bonaire. In the coming years they will continue to work for the ban on disposable plastic and will continue to organize the civil science programs. "So that in the future we will see a reduction in the amount of plastic on the coast and can enjoy the sea turtles and the beautiful coral reefs around Bonaire for a long time to come."
See also: We want to live more sustainably, but use more plastic; what's going wrong here?