The Circular Economy side event
Waste Management and Pollution Control

07 September 2023, Apia Samoa - The future of waste management is not about building recycling facilities and collecting litter from our oceans, the future of waste management is product design, designing out waste. 

The 31st Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) Meeting of Officials, themed, Sustainable, transformative and resilient for a Blue Pacific, plenary session endorsed that SPREP develops a Circular Economy Policy Framework and establish a Circular Economy Network.

As part of initiatives to collectively discuss and understand what Circular Economy may look like for the Pacific, as SPREP drafts a framework, a side event was held to enhance awareness and improve understanding on the benefits, opportunities and showcase success stories in the Pacific that contributes to circular economy and  the challenges faced by countries in transboundary movements of waste for recycling with assistance from the Moana Taka Partnership.

The large number of participants at the side event were informed that that a circular economy approach advocates a change to the way items are developed and manufactured to design out waste by ensuring products can be reused, re-manufactured, recycled, or recovered. 

Participants learnt that the circular economy is not a project on its own – and it is not a waste initiative on its own.  It is a policy change that may cut across many initiatives and embedded holistically into government policy considering all aspects of production and consumption with the goal to move away from a reliance on waste disposal. 

The side event featured several panellists including representatives from the Fiji based Pacific Recycling Foundation, Solomon Islands Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology, ANZPAC Plastic Pact, Cook Islands Environment Policy & Planning Department, SWIRE Shipping and SPREP. 

Presentations from the panel members highlighted that the circular economy approach seeks to replace the current take-make-waste linear model of production, consumption, and disposal which is a significant contributor to overflowing landfills, marine and terrestrial pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss and overconsumption of natural resources.  

This alternative approach is gaining momentum to replace the take-make-waste linear model with a circular model, rethinking how we produce, consume, and dispose resources using a Circular Economy approach which aims to reduce waste by keeping resources in use for as long as possible.

The expert panel members discussed opportunities currently available for Pacific Island countries and territories to incorporate a Circular Economy approach into waste management decision making and legislation including implementing importation bans to provide an enabling environment for local business and initiatives to develop replacement or alternative items like bags made locally from waste material which replace single use plastic bags, plates made locally from local vegetation or a diaper washing service to replace single use diapers.  

The participants of the side event were informed that importation quality restrictions and controls to ensure materials meet minimum quality and repairability standards to implement the principle of right of repair and keep products in circulation for longer also contributes towards a circular economy as well as setting up sustainable finance deposit and return schemes like Container Deposit, Advanced Recovery Fee and Disposal, Import Levy or Product Stewardship to provide long-term sustainable financing for materials recovery and local reuse, recycling, or export to foreign recycling markets also are available opportunities for Pacific Island countries

Pacific island countries were encouraged to support incentivising, organics and composting programmes to provide for organic materials to follow a circular model through reintroduction into the agroecosystems, and establishment of recycling collection and processing infrastructure such as a recycling centre, processing equipment, and collection systems to assist with the collection and circular management of materials instead of disposal to landfill. 

The side event attendees learnt that the intended outcomes of the current development of an Internationally Legally Binding Instrument to end Plastic Pollution being negotiated is focusing heavily on de-toxifying plastic materials, and incentivising, and requiring, sustainable and circular design and embedding circularity into plastic systems globally. 

Presentations also discussed the generation of local jobs supporting green business through creation of jobs to manage waste collection and separation, repair of damaged or discarded items, development of local alternatives to commonly wasted items and supporting the set-up of a Regional Recycling Network in the Pacific as recommended through the PRIF Regional Recycling Network Scoping Study to set up a Regional Recycling Hub in Fiji.

A number of project activities are being implemented by the Waste Management and Pollution Control Programme (WMPC) of SPREP that support Circular Economy initiatives such as the Australian Government Funded Pacific Ocean Litter Project supporting single use plastic importation bans, and support for traditional materials to provide alternatives to single use plastic. 

The European Union funded Pacific Waste Management, PacWaste Plus programme is assisting countries with national projects including improving organics management and to generate local and community level circular economies to implement National sustainable financing systems to create a circular economy for plastics, e-waste, and tyres.  

WMPC projects also include the GEF ISLANDS funded project addressing hazardous waste management and assistance to circular economy systems for e-waste and End of Life Vehicles and the AFD funded Committing to Sustainable Waste Actions in the Pacific project which is supporting design and implementation of Sustainable Finance deposit/return schemes.  

SPREP will continue, through its WMPC programme, to work with members and partners to develop a Circular Economy Policy Framework and the establishment of a Circular Economy Network.

The 31st SPREP Meeting of Officials and associated meetings are taking place at Taumeasina Island Resort in Samoa this week, from 4-8 September 2023. The meetings are guided by the theme: “SPREP@30th Sustainable, transformative and resilient for a Blue Pacific.”  

The 31st SPREP Meeting of Officials and associated meetings bring together SPREP's 21 Pacific Island Member countries, 5 Metropolitan Members and partners to discuss strategic issues pertaining to the organisation, and to approve the 2024-2025 work plan. The 21 Pacific Island Member countries and territories of SPREP are: American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. The five Metropolitan members of SPREP are: Australia, France, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States of America. 

In our efforts to fulfil our vision of ‘a resilient Pacific environment, sustaining our livelihoods and natural heritage in harmony with our cultures’, SPREP is extremely grateful to our valued Members, development partners, donors, our CROP family, and stakeholders.  

For more information on the 31SM, please contact: [email protected]