Kosi Latu
November 25, 2021
Waste Management and Pollution Control

23 November 2021, Apia - A fundamental shift in the importation strategy is urgently needed for countries in the Pacific region to enable a circular economy, eliminate waste and address marine pollution. For example, instead of importing anything and everything, Pacific governments should seriously consider only importing items necessary for survival. 

The call comes from the Mr Kosi Latu, Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), as the 3rd Clean Pacific Roundtable reaches the business end of the seven-day virtual meeting.  The 3rd CPRT, which started on 16 November and ends 25 November 2021, is focusing on “Creating a safe Pacific Circular Economy,” among other key thematic areas.

A Circular Economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials so that the life cycle of products is extended. 

Speaking during a session that focused on how the Pacific can achieve circular economy, Mr Latu said the opportunities in shifting from a linear economy to a circular economy in the Pacific are obvious but the progress has been quite slow. One of the stumbling blocks identified is the region’s heavy reliance on imports.

“We’ve talked a lot about the heavy reliance on importation which is what characterises us in the region, it is one-way traffic,” Mr Latu said. “Something needs to change in terms of that system where everything comes into the Pacific, very little leaves the region. I think that is a very fundamental issue that needs to change and I think it begins with changing our thinking in terms of what we really do need and influencing consumer choices.” 

There are simple questions everyone needs to be asking but governments must play an active role in facilitating the conversation and implementing the necessary plans to make it happen.

“Do we really need to import some of this stuff? Can we look at some of the local substitutes? Is that possible? That mindset in terms of importation needs to change and when it does, hopefully we can see some knock on benefits.”

The Director General lamented the current waste paradigm, which involves importing, consuming and disposing. He encouraged governments and their partners to change this. “Landfill and end of life disposal needs to be phased out to protect our people and environment.”

Mr Latu added that he is encouraged by the active role played by the private sector in many Pacific countries to make the transition from linear to circular economy. In that regard, he reemphasised the importance of creating a legislative environment that enables and incentivises a circular economy, and disincentivises landfill and end of life products

“We need an environment that recognises the core role of industry and institutions to partner with governments to bring their skills, technology, and financing to bear and deliver the quality outcomes sought,” Mr Latu said. “We need an engaged community, that understands their consumer choices impact on the Pacific way of life, and consider the end-of-life options for waste management, and utilise new recovery services to be offered, and not look to dump or landfill their waste.”

SPREP applauded member states that are leading the way in implementing importation bans of problem wastes such as single use plastics and hazardous wastes. The organisation also encouraged all members to continue to explore, consult, and implement bans that will continually increase the protection of human health and the environment.
“We acknowledge the leading work of our members that are designing and implementing sustainable financing systems to create the community incentive, and provide the finance and legislative environment to encourage industry activity,” Mr Leota said, adding that he believes a successful circular economy in the Pacific will not only reduce pollution and address climate change, it will also create new jobs.

The Third Clean Pacific Roundtable is held virtually from 16 – 25 November.  It is a partnership event supported by New Caledonia, Acotred Pacific, Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), Australian Aid (AUS Aid), European Union (EU), Fonds Pacifique, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), UN Environment Program, Province SUD and Province NORD.