Te Ipukarea Society : Take a stand against single use plastics

Saturday September 26, 2020 Written by Te Ipukarea Society Published in Environment
Teuru Passfield and Tehahawai with her Pacific Games 2019 limited edition reusable water bottle in Samoa last year. TIS/20092501 Teuru Passfield and Tehahawai with her Pacific Games 2019 limited edition reusable water bottle in Samoa last year. TIS/20092501

OPINION: The fight against plastic is far from over and as always, Te Ipukarea Society is coming out swinging.

During the 2019 Pacific Games, Samoa took a stand against plastic waste through their ‘Greening of the Games’ pledge. One of their objectives included reducing single use plastic bottle waste, by providing every participating athlete with a reusable thermal insulated drinking bottle.

With the Cook Islands Games coming up in early October, we too have the opportunity to take a stand against single use plastic bottle waste, especially in the form of disposable water bottles and food packaging. 

Working with Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee (CISNOC), we are aiming to reduce or eliminate single use plastic bottles at not just the upcoming Cook Islands Games, but all sporting events. Through partnerships with sport clubs and schools, we want to encourage reusable drink bottles and promote the use of refill water stations or dispensers such as igloos.

Those of us who attend these popular events know just how much plastic waste can end up filling the bins, only to be repeated the following weekend. The fight against plastic is far from over and as always, we are coming out swinging.

To get the ball rolling (so to speak), we have started to raise awareness on the plastic issue by presenting to school students, starting with Nukutere, Titikaveka and Papaaroa schools. Videos on plastics and marine litter is a great way to engage students on the issue so we can then brainstorm solutions with them. Going forward, we will be visiting more schools and clubs across the Cook Islands. 

One community-based initiative we hope to gain traction, involves encouraging sports clubs and schools to sign the ‘Plastic Battle’ pledge. The pledge is aimed at supporting sports grounds to make a strong commitment to tackling plastic waste at events. To support this initiative, we have designed some great insulated, reusable drinking bottles which will soon be made available to sports clubs to sell as a fundraising initiative.

We understand that all sports clubs are different. What might work at your club might not work at another. For this reason, we have several suggested options for pledges that clubs can modify to suit its needs.

One option is for individual sports teams to take the ball into their own hands and make the pledge to only use reusable drinking bottles. Perhaps individual islands could make this pledge for the Cook Island Games!

Your club might opt for an entire plastic bottle free event. This means no single-use plastic bottles will be sold and all single use plastic drink bottles on the sporting grounds will be banned. Clubs can support this by providing either refillable water stations or a chilled water drinking dispenser to refill reusable bottles. Of course, other drinks can still be sold in aluminium cans or glass bottles. 

If a school or club feels it is necessary to have bottled water available, try to only sell large bottles e.g. of 1litre and above. Purchasing in bulk size reduces the overall volume of waste as opposed to selling multiple small sized bottles.

Another option is for food stalls to pledge to only sell fully compostable or recyclable products e.g. aluminium can drinks, glass bottled drinks and paper-based packaging. Of course, the other upside of reducing plastic waste is that there is less to clean up, reduced costs for disposal efforts and of course, keeps our island, streams and ocean clean and beautiful.

The ball is in your court.  Let’s work together as a team in this plastic battle and smash this one out of the park. 

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