28 July 2021, Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS: Solutions for waste management challenges in the Cook Islands are being explored through a new project partnership between the Ministry of Infrastructure Cook Islands, the Cook Islands National Environment Service, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
Currently, the country relies primarily on the disposal of waste to landfills, but the amount of waste Cook Islands receive is exceeding the capacity of the landfill and to continue to dispose of waste to landfill has significant costs, both environmental and financial. Working in partnership, the focus is exploring a reduction of solid waste in landfills with an innovative and sustainable solution.
For the past year, despite the global challenges caused by the COVID 19 pandemic, dedicated staff from respective Ministries from the Cook Islands have been working with the PacWastePlus programme team on developing a suitable in-country project to be approved by the programme donor, the European Union.
On 14 July 2021, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Cook Islands Ministry of Infrastructure, signed by Mr Wil Pille, Acting Secretary, Cook Islands National Environment Service signed by Mr. Vavia Tangatataia, Acting Director and the Director-General of SPREP, Mr Kosi Latu, was formally signed.
“The signing of this MoU formally allows to progress the implementation of the Sustainable Financing for Waste Management – the Advance Recovery Fee and Deposit system (ARFD) project in Cook Islands,” said Mr Kosi Latu, SPREP Director General.
“This MoU provides a framework of co-operation, agreed project actions and responsibilities between SPREP and both Ministries to work in partnership and implement the ARFD project through the PacWastePlus programme,” he further added.
Sustainable Financing / ARFD Schemes, including Container Deposits and Waste Levies, are an effective method for improved waste management. The schemes work by collecting a small fee and deposit from select items upon import to a country.
The fee portion is used for the collection, processing, and in-country recycling or export of the item, providing a self-funding, long-term system for countries to support recycling.
The deposit portion is refunded to the community once the item is recycled at approved depots, providing an incentive for recycling, to replace disposal, littering, or burning, and immediately rewarding good behaviour.
“We are excited to commence our Advance Recovery Fee and Deposit system project and with the assistance of PacWastePlus programme create an enabling environment to help improve the collection, management and recycling of waste entering the Cook Islands,” said Ms Claytoncy Taurarii, PacWastePlus National Country Focal Point and Waste Programme Coordinator based at the Cook Islands Ministry of Infrastructure.
The ARFD project will create an enabling environment to help improve the collection, management and recycling of waste entering the Cook Islands, offering a way to ensure its long-term self-sustaining management is no longer completely reliant on variable government funding.
“This project is offering a way to ensure its long-term self-sustaining management”, further added Ms Claytoncy Taurarii.
The project will look at providing legislation to enable a self-financing system to provide a long-term ability for the Cook Islands to collect and process ARF items.
It will also establish facilities to enable the collection and processing of ARF recyclable items and changing household and community waste practices – by putting a small value on items gives an incentive to recycle and provides an alternate income source for groups/individuals supported by project education and awareness activities.
At the end of the project, the Cooks Islands will have the ARFD system operating effectively (Rarotonga and Pa Enua), providing opportunities to all members of the community to participate in improved waste management and generate income through the redemption of products.
In combination with GEF ISLANDS, the project will work towards having other legacy waste items, such as cans, bottles, vehicles cleaned up and removed from the Cook Islands.
The project will provide seed funding and the establishment of a Recovery and Recycling industry which provides equal opportunity employment and to those that have a disability.
The PacWastePlus programme will continue to provide technical assistance and funds for the engagement of expert consultant assistance, purchasing of equipment, the empowerment of communities through awareness and education on project initiatives, supporting the construction of facilities, and seed money to implement the ARFD project.
The Pacific-EU Waste Management Programme (PacWastePlus) is a EUR 16.5 million, 64-month project funded by the European Union and implemented by Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and will address both the cost effective and sustainable management of waste and pollution as well as broader impacts including human health and wellbeing, climate change, disaster management, biodiversity conservation and resource recovery. Priority waste streams include hazardous wastes (specifically asbestos, E-waste and healthcare waste), solid wastes (specifically recyclables, organic waste, disaster waste and bulky waste) and related aspects of wastewater.