Only Aitutaki has a proper landfill, and despite the wishes of most island leaders, environment officers and environmental NGOs, there is no sustainable mechanism to get recyclables and hazardous waste off the islands says Infrastructure Cook Islands’ Water, Waste & Sanitation (WATSAN) director Jaime Short.
“Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI) is trying to help the situation at the practical level in cooperation with General Transport,” she says.
“The crates for emulsion (tar) containers are kept and are being sent to the islands with their cargo in them in order to avoid extra shipping costs.”
It’s planned that the crates will be returned with e-waste and/or recyclables, with the aim of rotating the crates around the islands, taking advantage of scheduled cargo shipments.
“General Transport has kindly not charged a couple of the islands so far as they will keep the recyclables and e-waste as part of their business activities in resource recovery,” says Short.
Short is a member of the Solid Waste Committee, and says it is working to implement an advanced disposal fee (ADF) that will sustainably finance solid waste management services.
“This entails placing a small additional fee on certain products that is made up of a refund to the consumer upon return, a handling fee for the recycler and lastly, a portion for waste management services and infrastructure,” she explains.
“If we can get the ADF approved by government we can have all recyclables and hazardous waste from the outer islands brought back to Rarotonga and then (shipped) on to recyclers and safe disposal facilities overseas.”
Here on Rarotonga, Short has some suggestions on how residents can easily improve their waste disposal practices for the coming year.
Instead of purchasing a plastic bag at the supermarket with the intention of later using it to dispose of rubbish, she suggests using an alternative.
“You can use a bucket a for example, then keep a large paper trash bag, available at CITC supermarket, outside that you put your daily rubbish into until it’s full, then place out for roadside collection.”
For those who do not have animals and are unsure how to dispose of food, one suggestion is to purchase a large planter pot or simply dig a hole at home.
“Throw in some brown leaves after raking your yard and add any bits of branches every week and give it a stir.”
She says the problem of what to do with the hard-to-clean plastic wrapping on pet food rolls is easily solved by leaving them somewhere where ants can clean them without causing a nuisance.
As for the disposal of meat fat, Short says instructions can be found online, but adds that placing cooked fat in a compost heap would be OK.