Vanuatu Plastic Bag Ban now in Effect

In a bid to protect its marine life and also manage the problem of plastic litter and pollution around its islands, the Vanuatu government passed a legislation to ban the use, manufacture and importation of single use plastic bags in the country.

The legislation, which came into effect on 1 February, also extends to polystyrene takeaway food containers. A six month grace period has been given to shops and businesses to allow them to use up their existing stock of single-use plastic bags and polystyrene takeaway boxes.

Tanna Vanuatu 12-10-2015  Stuart Chape 4 copy
Tanna Island, Vanuatu.  Photo by Stuart Chape

The Vanuatu government has said that it aims to go even further and become completely plastic free, with the Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Ralph Regenvanu speaking to ABC Australia's Pacific Beat programme, saying they will also focus on getting rid of plastic knives, forks, straws and eventually plastic bottles.

The legislation was supported by a petition with 2,000 signatures which was presented to the government in 2017.
SPREP Director General, Mr Kosi Latu said, "This is excellent news. SPREP would like to congratulate the Government and the people of Vanuatu for taking this leadership and great initiative to ban single-use plastic bags, as well as Styrofoam food packaging."

Mr Latu added that Vanuatu's new legislation is a reflection of the Pacific's commitment to addressing marine litter, especially plastics.

"At the Pacific Island Forum Leaders Meeting held in Apia in 2017, leaders committed to developing policies and implementing stronger measures in their legislative frameworks to ban the use of single-use plastic bags, plastic and Styrofoam packaging," said Mr Latu.

"In addition to that, a ban on the importation of products containing plastic microbeads into the Pacific was also accepted at the 28th SPREP Meeting of Officials in September last year. These measures show the world that although we small island developing states are the recipients of the impacts of plastics, like climate change, as large ocean states we are doing our bit to save our oceans, our people and our planet."

NewsStudents of the University of the South Pacific undertake a marine waste monitoring activity
as part of training held in partnership between USP, SPREP and CEFAS.  Photo by PEBACC


In the ocean, plastics break down into small pieces, and those tiny pieces are like magnets for toxic compounds and heavy metals. When marine animals eat those plastics, which look like food, the toxins build up in their bodies. As a result, we will eventually be eating toxins when we eat fish such as tuna that have ingested these in the ocean.

Other countries in the Pacific have also put in place measures in an effort to discourage the use of plastic bags and address the growing issue of plastic pollution.

Fiji imposed 10c levy on plastic bags in 2017, in an effort to discourage shoppers from using plastic bags, and encourage them to opt for reusable bags instead. The Republic of the Marshall Islands legislation came into effect in March 2017 banning the importation, manufacture and use of single use shopping plastic bags, Styrofoam cups and packaging.

Palau and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) have also implemented measures to discourage the use of plastic bags in their countries. CNMI unanimously passed a bill in the House of Representatives which fines shops that offer plastic bags, and President Tommy Remengesau Jr of Palau last year signed a law which bans single-use plastic bags in the country.

For more information, please contact Mr Anthony Talouli, SPREP Pollution Adviser, at anthonyt@sprep.org.
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