To combat the increase in rubbish left lying around the island, WATSAN is promoting “plogging”, a new online community on Instagram for a large group of people around the world who combine running with picking up rubbish.
Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI) waste programme coordinator Hilary Boyes says a number of people have been posting on social media about the recurring rubbish problem that is affecting beaches around Rarotonga.
“Air New Zealand staff did a clean-up at Social Centre beach in Nikao and by the next weekend, bags of rubbish were found at the beach again,” says Boyes.
“As you can imagine, this is pretty disappointing for the staff who worked so hard out of their own hearts to pick up all the rubbish.”
She said that there was a high likelihood that rubbish left on the beach or in parks would find its way to the ocean, becoming dangerous to marine animals and impacting the health of our oceans and planet.
The issue of rubbish, especially the build-up of plastic in our oceans, is a huge global problem that we can’t keep ignoring, says Boyes
Plastic is a physical danger to sea creatures and is now part of the food chain through animals ingesting plastic particles and eventually onto our own dinner plates, she adds.
“We can all act at an individual level with our everyday choices and practices to prevent further plastic contamination of the ocean and our health.”
Boyes, who has worked in Kiribati and Australia on waste management, says that while litter management on Rarotonga is generally good compared to other Pacific islands where she has lived or visited, there is still much room for improvement.
“If you open your eyes to it, there is lots of litter lying around. In particular, after all the rain we have had recently, there is a lot of litter on the beach and in streams. It’s sad.”
Boyes says the amount of rubbish around the island prompted the “plogging” idea. The concept involves bringing a bag while going on a walk or run, and when rubbish is spotted to perform an exercise while picking it up.
“Squatting and carrying the extra weight of the rubbish adds to the fitness benefits and obviously picking up rubbish before it goes into the ocean or waterways is a good thing,” Boyes says.
“If you want, you can then post a picture of your bag of rubbish on Instagram to share with the rest of the global community and support each other.”
Boyes has collected over 650 pieces of rubbish since she decided to count it in the last few weeks, and hopes to collect 5000 pieces during her time in Rarotonga.
“But I hope I don’t get to that. I hope I no longer find rubbish when I run so my bag comes home empty. Or at least I hope I have to change my running route.
“I love the ocean and I love Rarotonga. It’s my way of saying thanks for allowing me to be here and to swim in our gorgeous lagoon.”
ICI is working on a number of waste initiatives, such as a cost benefit for glass crushing and mechanisms for operating a sustainable financing scheme for waste management.
“The sustainable financing scheme involves adding a small additional cost on the price of products, like 15c on plastic bottles and cans, which we then get a portion back once we have returned the container for recycling,” ICI secretary Ngametua Pokino said,
“This scheme works well in almost 50 countries around the world. It just gives containers a small monetary value so we take the time to return it for recycling instead of littering or having it end up in the landfill.”
You can also join the online plogging company and link with Hilary on Instagram at Kiwi_hb