“This place is just magical but it shocked us to see so much rubbish around the carpark and beach here” said Lisa, who is here with her husband Doug, and two daughters Metta and Hanna.
“Lisa picked up a plastic bag blowing around on the beach and on her walk back to Black Rock carpark she managed to fill it with rubbish. “Once I started, I kept seeing more and more!” she adds.
The Hesp family collected up around 4 shopping bags full of rubbish on two separate visits to Black Rock including a nappy, bleach bottle, cans, beer bottles and lots of plastic food packaging.
Concerned about the challenges of waste management and recycling in New Zealand, they now see it’s an even bigger issue here on the islands.
“With such a small land mass, there just isn’t enough ‘space’ to deal with all the waste that is produced here, says Doug, who manages a growers’ market back home and is here to learn more about agriculture on Rarotonga.
“The island won’t tolerate the ‘throw-away’ lifestyle for much longer.”
On their way home from the beach they visited Te Ipukarea Society to find out what initiatives are happening to tackle waste on the island. They were encouraged to hear that the government is soon to ban polystyrene product imports and the society is optimistic that this will be expanded to include other single-use plastics such as plastic straws and cutlery.
“We feel that the best way to protect the island from waste overload is to stop producing the rubbish in the first place.
“The government and local business owners are in the best position to lead the way on this and have the most impact, but of course they also need the leadership and support of the community,” says Doug.
“There are already some great examples of the community taking action here, such as what’s happening at Papaaroa School and the recycling that many families are putting out for collection each week.”
They also feel tourists should be aware of their contribution to the waste issue and make an effort to reduce the plastic waste they use and leave behind over the course of their stay.
The Hesp family encourage everyone to do their bit in protecting this beautiful island from becoming overwhelmed with rubbish.
They suggest, where possible, to say “no thanks” to single-use plastics such as bags, straws and cutlery.
“It can be hard to speak up at first but you soon get used to it and most people respond positively” says Lisa,
“And you need to be a bit more organised - make sure you have a bag or two with you or in the car, carry a fork/spoon with you and maybe even your own food container.
Ask for a paper straw if offered a plastic one: next time they might offer paper if enough people ask. It might seem a bit of a hassle, but if it saves a turtle from getting a plastic straw stuck up its nose I reckon it’s worth it!”
And finally, they ask that next time you are at the beach, spend 10 minutes picking up any rubbish you see lying around, even if it’s not yours.
If we all play our part we will ensure that Rarotonga achieves a healthy environment and healthy wildlife for generations to come.
And if you are ever around Christchurch in New Zealand, please pay a visit to Opawa Farmers’ Market, Sundays 9am-12noon, at 275 Fifield Terrace.