31 May 2023, Paris France - The pristine beaches, vibrant forests and colourful reefs of 992 islands of the Solomon Islands are threatened by increasing plastic litter arriving on its shores, and from discarded plastic waste locally.
In the capital Honiara, plastic bags alone make up 12 per cent of the main landfill. Managing plastic waste continues to stress infrastructure and already limited resources in the small island nation.
“We need to stop plastic at its source, we are calling for an ambitious instrument that is legally binding and looks at the entire lifecycle of plastics, from the sourcing of raw materials all the way to the remediation of legacy pollution leaked into the environment,” said Ms Debra Kereseka, the Deputy Director of Environment in the Solomon Islands.
“The Pacific Islands do not produce polymers and like most small island states we face serious challenges in managing plastic waste in a safe, economically and environmentally sustainable way.”
The second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-2) is underway in Paris, France, this week.
Solomon Islands is one of 12 Pacific Islands engaging in the negotiations helping to amplify a One Pacific Voice for a Plastics Treaty reflective of the needs of the Pacific islands.
In November 2019, the Solomon Islands initiated the process to ban single-use plastics through an initial stakeholder consultation. The global pandemic caused delays to this process but momentum has picked up again as the country prepares to host the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara.
“The government is committed to having in place regulation for the banning on import, sale and usage of certain single-use plastics as set out in the National Waste Management & Pollution Control Strategy 2017-2026 by September this year,” said Ms Kereseka.
“Nation-wide consultations are ongoing as we continue to inform, engage and receive feedback from key stakeholders such as the business importing and using single-use plastics, key government ministries to ensure that there is no stockpile, illegal trade and use when regulation is enforced.”
The Solomon Islands’ efforts have been boosted by the Australian government-funded Pacific Ocean Litter Project (POLP) which through the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP) is supporting the development of the national plastics regulation and the ‘Greening of the 2023 Pacific Games’ initiative which aims to ensure the Games in Honiara is plastic-free.
“The government has made this priority and has given their full support to progress this initiative in preparation for the biggest regional event, the Pacific Games in November,” said Ms Kereseka.
“We hope these new regulations, policies and practices will have a legacy effect on our two very important resources - our natural environment and our people.”
The second Intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment is taking place in Paris France from 29 May to 2 June 2023. The Pacific Islands are represented by the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu 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), working with partners the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Environmental Investigation Agency, Centre for International Environmental Law, University of Wollongong, WWF and Massey University.
For more information on the POLP project, visit www.sprep.org/polp
For more information on INC-2, visit: https://www.unep.org/events/conference/second-session-intergovernmental-negotiating-committee-develop-international