In the two-day National Waste Management Dialogue at the Cook Islands Red Cross Society last week, the use and disposal of these diapers were identified as one of the country’s most prominent waste management issues.
The dialogue hosted by Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) on Monday and Tuesday spent a considerable time dealing with the issues surrounding disposable nappies.
The participants also discussed the environmental need to reduce the burning and dumping of used nappies.
During her presentation, local entrepreneur Donna Smith highlighted that “discarded disposable diapers make up roughly 14 per cent of the waste in the landfill in Arorangi”.
This issue is not one isolated to Rarotonga but one that plagues the Cook Islands as a whole, Smith said.
The participants also learnt beaches continue to be a dumping ground for disposable diapers, and the reckless burning of diapers is still evidently practised in our communities.
Although reusable diapers are more cost-effective in the long run, Smith said disposable diapers continue to be the go-to choice for Cook Islanders.
Group discussions between GEF SGP national coordinator Teuru Tiraa-Passfield and workshop attendees revealed that Cook Islanders lack awareness and education on the environmental impact of disposable diapers.
The convenience associated with disposables, and the lack of knowledge on how to use reusable diapers are a few causes of this waste management issue, Tiraa-Passfield said.
Smith in her presentation highlighted that “people use disposables instead of reusable nappies because there is not enough availability of alternatives here in the Cook Islands”.
The participants decided that the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme could be used to help address the “environmental need to increase the use of reusable nappies as an alternative to disposables with a focus on diapers for the infirmed elderly, and babies.”
This project and a few others will be proposed to Tiraa-Passfield at the beginning of 2019.
The primary objective of the workshop was to raise awareness of the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme in the Cook Islands, and priorities for the next funding cycle.
“The emphasis of the workshop was to set out priorities chosen by the committee for the next funding cycle of GEF SGP, to get a feel of what the priorities are, and identify and address crucial waste management matters of the country,” Tiraa-Passfield said.
Many members of the public attended the two-day workshop, eager to see what work is being done and how they can help improve Cook Islands waste management.
Various community-based organisations and non-governmental organisations including Te Ipukarea Society, and Ocean Initiative made presentations.
Also in attendance were Aitutaki Conservation Trust officer Varema Ruahe-John and Mauke representative Lisa Turaki.