20 August 2018, Suva, Fiji - Number crunching has shown the positive impact of the plastic bag levy on consumer behavior in Fiji. The island nation used approximately 70 million plastic bags in 2010. Since the introduction of the new levy in August 2017, this number has dropped by almost half, peaking at just over half a million plastic bags in January 2018.
Just over a year ago, the Government of Fiji introduced a 10 cent plastic bag levy under the Environment and Climate Adaptation Act in line with the voluntary ocean commitment from Fiji to phase-out plastic bags by 2025.
“However the trend we are beginning to see means Fiji is actually moving a lot closer to make this commitment to reduce the negligible level of plastic bag use in the next two to three years,” presented Mr Dwain Qalovaki to over 200 delegates at the Clean Pacific Roundtable in Suva this week.
“By current projections, Fiji is on track to make this a reality by 2020.”
Demonstrating leadership, this move by the Fijian Government aims to address the impacts caused by plastic on our ocean. Eight million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean each year and it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our ocean.
As stated by Mr Kosi Latu, the Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) at the opening of the Clean Pacific Roundtable 2018, the plastic issue is now a food security issue.
“A study on fish ingestion with samples from Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa and Rapa Nui showed that 97% of all fish species sampled had micro-plastics. This was 30% higher that the global average,” said Mr Latu.
“This is very concerning for the Pacific where fish is the main source for protein, and where fish consumption is at least approximately three or four times higher than the global average.”
Information such as this has propelled Fiji to make a difference.
“Fiji has successfully been able to levy a total of 43, 581, 688 plastic bags from 4,281 businesses in our country that have a point of sale system from 1 August 2017 to 31 July 2018. This plastic bag levy only works for businesses that have a point of sale system,” said Mr Qalovaki who advocated to help Fiji to help meet their target to reduce plastic bag usage by 1 million plastic bags within a 12 month period.
“There are some tricky situations we face, particularly in instances where customers refuse to pay the 10 cent plastic bag levy. So across all three service stations – Total, Mobile and Pacific Energy, the Fiji Fuel Retailers Association developed posters and cashier counter top signage that let customers know this fee is supported by legislation.”
Another challenge faced was how to transform the levy into a practical application that was easily implemented by all, this resulted in a product code in the point of sale system for every plastic bag that was levied. This enables the generation of reports for each point of sale.
“Now businesses on a daily basis are required to collect this information and transmit it to the Fiji Tax Department on a monthly basis as they fill out their tax returns. A special column was added that reduces the workload on our tax department,” said Mr Qalovaki.
“The initial three months since introduction of the levy did have some hiccups but eventually after that we were able to provide reports back to government and work with the industry to help transform legislation and creating industry action and compliance work.”
Mr Dwain Qalovaki, presented during the Clean Pacific Roundtable 2018 on Fiji’s policy approach to addressing plastics during a special session on Policy and economic mechanisms for combating marine debris, plastics and microplastics.
The Clean Pacific Roundtable 2018 held in Suva, Fiji from 20 – 22 August, 2018 followed by associated events on 23 and 24 August 2018, is coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) with the European Union (EU) and other partners.
This is the second CPRT, a Pacific regional event which is held every two years. In 2018 it has brought together over 190 participants from across the Pacific island region to help seek solutions to Pacific waste problems in line with the Cleaner Pacific 2025, the Pacific waste and pollution management strategy for the Pacific.
For further information on the Clean Pacific Roundtable 2018 and the topics, please do visit https://www.sprep.org/clean-pacific-roundtable-2018