Plastic waste a growing problem

Wednesday November 15, 2017 Written by Published in Environment
Plastic baled up at the Rarotonga landfill, ready to send to Malaysia for recycling earlier this year. The shipment was the first of PET plastic sent from the island in three years. 17111326 Plastic baled up at the Rarotonga landfill, ready to send to Malaysia for recycling earlier this year. The shipment was the first of PET plastic sent from the island in three years. 17111326

Cook Islands “plastic problem” is getting worse, says Water, Waste, And Sanitation (WATSAN) director Jaime Short.

 

Short says that despite all of WATSAN’s efforts, Rarotonga is being inundated with plastic waste.

So far, the Cook Islands has sent 64 tonnes of plastic waste overseas in a bid to rid Rarotonga of mass waste, with a shipment going to Malaysia earlier this year.

Short says that along with the promotion of the “4R” principle (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), WATSAN is organising an agreement with Recycle Cook Islands and General Transport to move recyclables off the island, and is drafting legislation which will lead to the establishment of a Solid Waste Act. The Act will make sorting of rubbish and recycling compulsory – something Short says is imperative.

The organisation is also preparing a “single use” polystyrene ban policy, which will be available for public comment from this week till the end of November.

“We have also produced a solid waste management policy.”

Short says the island’s waste output is far too high, and urges people to take note of what small changes they can make in their homes to stop the strain on the country’s landfill, which is already full.

She says the advanced disposal fee (ADF) is key to answering many of the waste problems.

An advanced disposal fee is a sum placed on the price of products such as bottles to cover refunds to the customer when they return empties and to pay for their recycling or safe disposal. 

“A 500ml soft drink bottle may cost $3.50. We add 10 cents for the refund (to encourage returns/sorting), 1 cent for the recycler contractor, and 4 cents to go towards infrastructure such as compacting equipment, freight, fumigation, reverse vending machines etc.

Short says not enough people are aware of the concept and the role it could play in decreasing Cook Islands waste problems.

When asked about the prospect of the Cook Islands banning the importation of plastic Short says the best option would be to import products with less or no plastic packaging. 

“Plastic as a packaging product can be controlled by the importers and manufacturers. Importers can choose not to bring in goods that have excessive packaging or choose products that have biodegradable packaging.

“The 4R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle, recover), is how we want the whole waste management system and its legislation to operate.”

She urges the public to strongly consider their use of plastic and to follow the 4Rs.

“Make wise choices.

“Say no to plastic bags, choose a soft drink in an aluminum can, rather than a plastic bottle. Choose soap in a paper or cardboard wrapper rather than soap gel in a pump bottle and buy yoghurt in a carton rather than small plastic pots. 

“All these small individual behaviour adjustments mean a whole lot less plastic to deal with.”

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