Pacific disaster waste
February 11, 2023
Waste Management and Pollution Control

Participants from various Pacific countries have benefitted from a virtual Disaster Waste Management workshop designed to allow them to share experiences and lessons learned in disaster waste management.

Held on 8 December 2022, the workshop organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), through the ‘Committing to Sustainable Waste Actions in the Pacific’ (SWAP) project in collaboration with the J-PRISM II Project and the PacWastePlus Programme, brought together speakers from Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

Eighteen participants were able to learn about preparedness for minimising disaster waste generation and were informed on the safe handling and storage of disaster waste. They also learned the importance of collaboration and coordination in managing disaster waste and the need for effective planning and preparedness.

SPREP’s Director of Waste Management and Pollution, Mr Anthony Talouli, highlighted the importance of the workshop.

“The impact of disasters to our GDP is very significant as it can set us back billions of dollars every year in terms of development, so the significance of the workshop is very high,” Mr Talouli said. He added that having the workshop in early December "was an opportune time for us to look at the lessons learnt from previous incidents especially when the Southern Hemisphere was in the Cyclone season.

Disaster waste

The workshop was structured into three sessions, with the first session introducing documents with a regional scope such as the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) and the Disaster Waste Management Guideline. The second session focused on national activities in Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu, and the third session focused on sharing knowledge on how to strengthen good practices.

The workshop began with an introduction to the logistical arrangements and an overview of the workshop by Ms Julie Pillet, who was the lead facilitator for the workshop and the Technical Waste Project Coordinator for SWAP project.

The first session focused on regional activities, with Mr Sione Fulivai, FRDP Coordinator, providing an overview of the Framework for Resilient Development In the Pacific and its key principles. This was followed by a presentation by Mr Faafetai Sagapolutele, Assistant Chief Advisor of JPRISM II, on the Disaster Waste Management Guideline and its focus on disaster waste prevention and mitigation, preparedness and early warnings, and disaster waste response measures. Mr Faafetai stated the importance of ‘how the guideline with help Pacific Island countries enhance its skills and knowledge on measures to use during the different stages of disaster management’. 

The second session focused on national activities, with Mr Setoa Apo, from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in Samoa, providing an overview of the Samoa Disaster Waste Management Plan. This was followed by a presentation by Ms Roselyn Bue, from the Ministry of Climate Change, Adaptation, Meteorology, Geo-Hazards, Energy, Environment, Disaster Management and Meteorological Services in Vanuatu, on how Vanuatu organised disaster waste management response with communities following Tropical Cyclone Harold in 2020, and the key challenges faced. 

Mr Viliami Tongamana who is the National Cluster Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) presented on Tonga’s National Action Plan and provided an overview on how Disaster Risk Management is arranged in Tonga. 

Ms. Mafile'o Masi, the Chief Environmentalist at the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change, and Communications (MEIDECC), presented on the lessons learned from Tonga's management of disaster waste in the aftermath of volcano eruption and tsunami that occurred on January 15 2022.. She pointed out that the emergency aid provided such as water bottles and food supplies have generated a significant amount of additional waste, which is not suitable for a small country. While international aid is essential to the populations, the management of waste generated must be integrated into the response provided by overseas donors to avoid compromising the long-term management of waste in the countries. Ms. Masi stated that the clean-up of the disaster waste caused for the tsunami and volcanic eruption wouldn’t have been possible or ’done without the community and village clean-up’. Ms. Sulieti Pongi Hufanga, the PacWaste Plus In-country Officer in Tonga, discussed the lessons learned from the management of asbestos disaster waste in the country.

The volcano eruption was exceptional, both across the Pacific Islands region and the world, given the power of this event. To share lessons learnt from this and do document how the island nation managed the disaster waste after the eruption,  including volcano ash, the SWAP Project commissioned a 25-minute documentary with interviews and testimonies from key stakeholders in Tonga. 

The third session focused on strengthening good practices, with Mr Stalini Naufahu, from the Waste Authority Ltd in Tonga, introducing the Disaster Waste Management Data Collection Project in Tonga using KoboToolBox. This was followed by a presentation by Ms Sainimili Bulai, PacWaste Plus Technical Waste Project Officer – Solid Waste, on Practitioner Guidelines for drafting national and community disaster waste management plans, establishing environment sector working groups, and standard methodology for estimating disaster waste.

The objectives of the workshop were to inform participants about the origins and impacts of disaster waste, highlight the challenges of disaster waste management in the Pacific, teach participants how to prepare for minimising disaster waste generation, inform them about opportunities for Pacific Island Countries to manage disaster waste, and provide information on safe handling and storage of disaster waste.

For more information on the disaster waste management workshop, please visit, or watch the recording on YouTube or email Ms Julie Pillet at [email protected]

SWAP aims to improve sanitation, environmental, social and economic conditions in Pacific Island Countries and Territories through proper waste management”.  The seven SWAP Pacific islands are Fiji, French Polynesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna. New Caledonia will also receive technical support through SWAP. 

The Committing to Sustainable Waste Actions in the Pacific (SWAP) Project is funded by the Agence française de développement (AFD) and executed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) .

Agence Française de Développement (AFD) implements France’s policy on international development and solidarity. Through its financing of NGOs and the public sector, as well as its research and publications, AFD supports and accelerates transitions towards a fairer, more resilient world. It also provides training in sustainable development (at AFD Campus) and other awareness-raising activities in France. 

« With our partners, we are building shared solutions with and for the people of the Global South. Our teams are at work on more than 4,000 projects in the field, in the French Overseas Departments and Territories, in 115 countries and in regions in crisis. We strive to protect global public goods – promoting a stable climate, biodiversity and peace, as well as gender equality, education and healthcare. In this way, we contribute to the commitment of France and the French people to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Towards a world in common. » 

For further information please contact Ms Julie Pillet, SWAP Coordinator at [email protected]