29 October 2020, Apia, Samoa – The why, how, and what is being done to address the issue of marine plastic pollution in the Pacific was highlighted during the third day of the 2020 Pacific Ocean, Pacific Climate Change Conference by Mr Anthony Talouli, Acting Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) Waste Management and Pollution Control Programme.
“There is a one-way flow of commodities into island nations. Very little waste is transported out of the islands, so almost all the commodities end up as waste at the end of its useful life,” Mr Talouli said.
Other sources of marine litter include waste produced from natural disasters, and the routine demand for commodities, all of these ending up at landfills or dumpsites. In addition, there are discharges of waste into the environment from poor waste management of collection and disposal sites, as well as illegal dumping and littering on land and at sea.
According to Mr Talouli, the Pacific region, through SPREP as its mandated agency to address environment issues, has an integrated waste management approach through the Pacific Regional Waste and Pollution Management Strategy 2016-2025 or the Cleaner Pacific 2025.
The strategy covers 15 waste streams and addresses and focuses on human capacity, sustainable financing, collection, disposal, recycling, disaster waste, policy and legislation, hazardous waste, atoll waste management, as well as partnerships, which are very important when it comes to dealing with the issue of marine plastic pollution.
“The region also has a Pacific Regional Marine Litter Action Plan 2018-2025 that sits within the Cleaner Pacific 2025 strategy,” Mr Talouli added. “The regional action plan identifies 11 priority areas that Pacific states need to focus on to address plastic pollution at the source.”
Mr Talouli used the Moana Taka Partnership as an example of a partnership which is helping the Pacific address marine plastic pollution. This partnership with Swire Shipping Company, provides free freight for non-commercial waste from Pacific Islands to any destination within its Asia Pacific shipping network.
“The MOU for this partnership was signed between SPREP and Swire Shipping Agencies in March 2018, with the aim of helping to alleviate the burden of waste on islands in the Pacific by enabling Swire Shipping vessels to utilise empty shipping containers to transport non-commercial recyclable waste from Pacific islands,” Mr Talouli explained.
“This is a critical partnership which facilitates a circular economy, by providing access to waste and recycling infrastructure abroad,” he added.
In 2019, more than 50 shipments of recyclable waste from Pacific island countries and territories were move to destinations within the Asia market for disposal and recycling, with SPREP continuing to seek Member countries to increase participation in the Moana Taka by investigating the possibility of using the partnership to remove stockpiles of non-commercial waste.
Countries in the Pacific have shown great leadership in addressing the issue of marine plastic pollution. The Pacific Islands Forum leaders recognised the importance of waste management, in particular the issue of marine pollution and plastic pollution.
“Many of our islands have put in policies to ban single-use plastic bags. There are 11 Member countries of SPREP, making up 52% of the region, that have legislation that bans single-use plastic bags and other products, and five more Pacific island countries and territories have declared commitment to do so, bringing the total commitment from the region to 76%,” Mr Talouli revealed.
Another example of action in the Pacific which demonstrates leadership in the fight against marine plastic pollution is the partnership which brought about the first ever “Green” Pacific Games.
The Samoa 2019 Pacific Games, held in July 2019, brought together close to 9,000 athletes and officials to compete and take part in 27 sports over the course of two weeks. As host, Samoa committed to a green Pacific Games to support a sustainable Pacific environment, and proactively address the increase in waste that comes with a large number of visitors over a short period of time.
At the conclusion of the Games, it was revealed that the use of over one million 500ml single-use plastic bottles was successfully avoided through the installation of water stations at all games venues and athletes villages, and the issuing of reusable vacuum bottles to athletes and officials to use for their water.
The 2020 Pacific Ocean Pacific Climate Conference from 27 - 30 October 2020 is a partnership between the Government of Samoa, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), National University of Samoa (NUS), and Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University Wellington. The theme of this online conference is ‘Blue Pacific, Climate Action for Climate Resilience’. Further information can be found at https://pacificoceanclimatechange.org/
For more information and to arrange media interviews please contact:
• Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, Trudy Lagolago on (04) 463 9522 or by email at [email protected]
• Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP)—Leanne Moananu at (685) 21929 or [email protected]
• National University of Samoa—Sagapolutele Junior Jensen at [email protected]