A Small Island Takes a Big Stand on Plastic

A traditional meeting house sits on the banks of a lagoon on the sleepy island of Yap.  (Photo by Daniel Lin)

It’s no surprise that, in an era of rapid change, island nations will be among the first to feel the effects of climate change. A common sentiment shared among the islands of the Pacific is that they suffer a great deal from the phenomenon while contributing the least to the problem. These islands are located in a region that’s sandwiched by two of the world’s largest carbon-emitting countries, the United States and China, which means that any concerns they voice on the global stage often come out as mere whispers.

A traditional meeting house sits on the banks of a lagoon on the sleepy island of Yap. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Small Island, Big Step

But this hasn’t deterred some islands from taking concrete steps toward better environmental stewardship. One of these bright spots is Yap, an island state in the Federated States of Micronesia. In July 2014 policymakers there officially enacted a ban on all uses of plastic bags. The ban places steep fines on any shops or individual merchants that distribute plastic bags to customers.

A Significant Part of the Problem

The Yap Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been continuously working to educate the general public about the reasoning behind the ban and the consequences of plastics. This is done in part through publications and notices that can be found at shops around the island. Says one notice:

Plastic grocery bags are responsible for the death of many fish, turtles, dolphins, and other marine animals that are essential to the food security and ecology of Yap. These animals mistake plastic grocery bags for jellyfish and other food sources … Plastic pollution in oceans is an enormous problem globally, and plastic grocery bags are a significant part of this problem.

Larry Raigetal holds up a reusable shopping bag—woven by —> Read More