Mr Veari Kula, Papua New Guinea’s Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) Infrastructure Utilities and Convention Branch Manager
December 1, 2022
Waste Management and Pollution Control

30 November 2022, Punta del Este - If the global community is serious about developing a robust legally binding instrument that promotes a life cycle approach, a predictable, workable and sustainable financial mechanism is a must to address the key plastic issues in different respective jurisdictions.

Such a mechanism should provide funding to strengthen national level activities, develop legal frameworks and strengthen and build capacity across all sectors in preparation for the implementation of the proposed treaty.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) made the call during the plenary of the first session of the International Negotiating Committee (INC1) to develop a legally binding agreement on plastic pollution, where negotiations are underway in the south eastern coast of Uruguay at Punta del Este.

PNG is among Pacific countries amplifying our Pacific’s voice as negotiators begin the discussion of measures and obligations related to the development of the legally binding treaty, expected to be finalised by the end of 2024.

Mr Veari Kula, Papua New Guinea’s Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) Infrastructure Utilities and Convention Branch Manager, told the plenary that it is only through a robust instrument forging stronger collaboration and partnership between all stakeholders that plastic pollution can truly be addressed.

Locally, Mr Kula said addressing plastic pollution has continued to be a great challenge for the biggest Pacific island nation with a population of more than 9 million. Papua New Guinea first attempted to ban single use plastic shopping bags in 2004, however this did not eventuate as the concept was met with grave opposition from industries, especially local plastic manufacturers. In 2009, the PNG Government introduced a ban on non-biodegradable single use plastic shopping bags policy.

“Although the Policy and Regulations have been in place, implementation over the years has continued to pose serious challenges. A key factor has been the lack of in-country facilities and technical expertise to identify the different characteristics of plastic shopping bags whether it be biodegradable or non-biodegradable,” Mr Kula said.

“This is further compounded by the fact that there is manufacturing of plastic shopping bags in the country which is heavily influenced by increased demand from local industries.”

In order to address some of these problems, PNG highlighted the need for financial and technical assistance to develop technical guidelines, build capacity, develop and implement best practices and standards and put in place environmentally friendly designs in the production of such products. There is also a need to develop relevant laws and policies to ensure plastic production is conducted in an environmental sound manner.

“In addition, there is an urgent need for more ambitious actions including the development of comprehensive national frameworks such as extended producer responsibility, container deposit schemes, consumer awareness and responsibility complemented with capacity building programs as a way forward in addressing majority of our plastic pollution issues.”

Internationally, PNG reminded that they are a party to several waste MEAs, and urged that useful experiences from these agreements must be used to accelerate progress on a plastics treaty.

 “Learning from experience of these Conventions and strengthening synergies between the new plastic conventions will be vital to assist countries in meeting its obligation under the new instrument,” Mr Kula said.

“As developing countries, we need to adopt approaches and policy measures that have worked to phase out controlled substances in the area of plastic production and consumption redesign and disposal of plastic waste. As a developing country, we need to strike a balance between regulations, provide incentives and to focus on recycling activities as well as to reduce and to promote sustainable plastic waste production and consumption.”

PNG recorded 90,000 tons of mismanaged plastic in 2010 and by 2050, it was projected that plastic pollution in PNG would have more than tripled. Plastic pollution is especially a challenge in the nation’s capital of Port Moresby given the limited recycling facilities. When it rains, the rubbish on the ground blocks up the drains and all the streets flood, and waste gets washed into the ocean.

Mr Kula, however, remains hopeful.

“There is more that needs to be done and for a country like Papua New Guinea, we would like to see that the new instrument to consider mechanisms to localise implementation at the national level.

“We acknowledge the United Nations Environment Programme and Government of Australia in providing the financial support to ensure our participation. We also thank the government of Uruguay for the hospitality and for hosting the 1st INC.”

The first Intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment is taking place in Punta del Este, Uruguay from 28 November–2 December 2022. 

The Pacific Islands are represented by Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu through the support of the Government of Australia and the United Nations.

They are supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) with financial assistance from the Government of Australia.  SPREP is working with partners the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, University of Newcastle, Environmental Investigation Agency, Centre for International Environmental Law, University of Wollongong, WWF and Massey University.