Momi Bay
November 26, 2021
Waste Management and Pollution Control

25 November 2021, APIA - As Pacific tourism enters into a new normal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity for green recovery has been amplified at the Third Clean Pacific Roundtable.

The UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration, and the newly endorsed Pacific Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework are just two avenues that help strengthen green tourism recovery.  Perspectives from a waste management lens were presented during a special event facilitated by the UN Environment Programme this week at the virtual Pacific waste event.

“Tourism can be a very wasteful experience,” presented Dr Jeff Seadon, Programme Director Postgraduate Programmes at Auckland University of Technology.

Referring to a case study undertaken in Male, Maldives that indicated tourists to the island create three times as much waste as a local resident, he highlighted there is no reason to expect this would be different for the Pacific islands.

“In the Pacific we're looking at very wasteful people who are coming to these islands and even more so when we get to look at the postcard situation where people are likely to want to be more in line with post-COVID, especially when it comes to instances like single use packaging.”

Tourism is a strong economic pillar for many Pacific islands pre-COVID.  In 2019 in Fiji total visitor arrivals had increased by just under 3% in comparison to the year before with close to 900,000 international visitors.  In 2019 the Cook Islands which has an approximate population of 17,000 people had 170,000 thousand visitors to its shores.

As the Pacific region builds back, green recovery when it comes to all areas of waste, is strongly encouraged.  

In 2019 the food exports from New Zealand into 10 Pacific islands comes to over NZD 10 million dollars each with Fiji importing over 160 million dollars’ worth of food. All of which also comes with all the food packaging, noting these imports are from one country only and this is only one form of waste.

“The waste disposal options in the islands basically come down to two things – in the local landfill, or the marine environment,” said Dr Seadon.

“If we’re looking at diverting these wastes off island there are a number of different issues that have to be sorted out first – several of which include the high shipping costs as well as the low volumes of waste.  We have a responsibility beyond export.”

Last month the Pacific Tourism Ministers endorsed the Pacific 2030 Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework which sets out the vision, policies and actions needed to transform tourism to make it more sustainable and provide greater benefits to the communities of the Pacific.  

The shared vision being that ‘by 2030 we are empowered by and benefitting from tourism that is resilient, prosperous and inclusive.  It improves the wellbeing of our communities and protects, restores and promotes our cultures, islands and ocean ecosystems.’

As the tourism waste challenges are highlighted, so are the frameworks to support a shift to a sustainable recovery as the industry builds back across the Pacific islands region.

“The pandemic has really presented the opportunity for us to rethink and reset the way we develop the tourism sector,” said Ms Christina Leala Gale of the Pacific Tourism Organisation as she presented at the side event hosted by the UN Environment Programme during the Third Clean Pacific Roundtable.

“Tourism is a very important economic sector for our region so we need to work together ensuring that the wasteful people can be turned into resourceful people for our region.  This is where the Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework provides the regional platform for engagement.”

With the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration 2021 - 2030 as the backdrop and the new Pacific Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework to encourage and empower sustainable recovery as we build back from COVID-19, there is hope.

“As the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration, the basic idea is we need to address the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution management,” said Mr Sefanaia Nawadra Head of the Pacific sub-regional Office of the UN Environment.

“While the name of the decade seems to be about biodiversity and ecosystems, it really addresses three of the planetary crises that face.”

The UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration – Platform to Address Waste Management in the Pacific hosted by the UN Environment Programme event during the Third Clean Pacific Roundtable was hosted on Tuesday 23 November. 

Presenters included Mr Jeff Seadon, Ms Christina Leala-Gale and Mr Steve Raaymakers.  The topics focused on Tourism and Waste as well as the Moana Taka Partnership.

 A virtual meeting the 3-CPRT is held from 16 – 25 November 2021.

The Third Clean Pacific Roundtable 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 (UNEP), Province SUD and Province NORD.

To learn more about the Pacific 2030 Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework please visit:

To learn more about the Third Clean Pacific Roundtable please visit: