Last week island resident Temanava Macquarie expressed her frustration at the practice, posting photos on the Facebook page Rarotonga Community and beyond of material piled ready for burning at a nearby property.
“This has been going on far too long and I’m over it! Burning of plastic,” she wrote.
“Neighbours have been burning plastic for the last eight-plus years - baby nappies, plastic bags, light bulbs, sanitary pads, bottles, aluminum cans…and the list goes on.
“Besides the fact they have young children and obviously aren’t at all concerned about their health, they don’t care about our environment or others suffering around them!
“The pollution of burning rubbish comes into our homes and we as healthy, organic, recycling people have to suffer breathing in this toxic cancer-causing fumes.
“I have repeatedly asked them to stop over the years and they simply do not care. My mother and I have also repeatedly contacted the Health department over many years and they too don’t do anything to solve the problem!
“So I can name and shame these people, but that won’t help will it? It needs to stop tho!
“I know there are many other people on the island who burn plastic too and they need to take action and recycle. If you don’t care about our environment then something is wrong with you.. please this is a notice to the community #Say no to plastic burning!
“PS: These aren’t even bad photos... it’s been worse than this.”
Macquarie’s post received a quick response, with Rohan Ellis saying T&M Heather trucks needed to collect plastic and other dangerous material from homes and manage that type of waste from the site in Arorangi.
“Otherwise, this will continue to happen,” he added.
Said Betsy Eisler: “Most of what they seem to be burning can be put in their general rubbish. It’s like they’re too lazy to put their bin out for collection and are instead choosing to burn it.”
Tatiana Esme Drollett said it was sad that some people didn’t seem to care about their island.
“If they did, they would recycle their plastics. It’s not a hard job. (They are) just lazy.”
Pasha Carruthers pointed out that the 2004 Public Health Act, part 6, section 38, bans burning plastic waste and tyres.
“People found breaching the Act can be fined up to $1000, while companies or organisations who flout the law can be fined $10,000.”
CINews editor Cameron Scott said the fact the problem still existed pointed to a lack of will on the part of Public Health and other authorities when it came to policing anti-pollution laws.
“Earlier this year I complained to the National Environment Service about people burning piles of plastic refuse from a café, near the CINews building. They were doing it at least once a week and sometimes more – and the thick, black toxic smoke was spreading into our building and all around the neighbourhood. It smelled awful and I have read that inhaling smoke from plastic fires is equivalent to smoking 300 cigarettes at once.
“The NES said to contact Public Health, which I did, but it was weeks before an inspector turned up to discuss the problem. He said he’d give the people a warning and would follow up.
“The next week, the fires continued, with the only difference being that the material, which included empty drinks containers and other large plastic containers, was burned in a 44-gallon drum. The smoke problem was just the same.
“I got back to Public Health, but the problem continued, and in the end I had a word to the offenders myself, because the smoke was giving me headaches making me feel very ill. They apologised and put the fire out. But I know other people complain regularly about the same thing, and those causing the problem just ignore them.
There are fires like this around the island every week – and I know from personal experience that it’s been going on for many years.”
- CINews reporters