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Te Ipukarea Society: Waste Wise Mangaia, Managing waste in the Pa Enua

Friday 23 June 2023 | Written by Te Ipukarea Society | Published in Environment, National


Te Ipukarea Society: Waste Wise Mangaia, Managing waste in the Pa Enua
Pheobe Happ from KukiTime using performing arts as a creative educational tool to share key messages about waste management ‘Taau Taku Tita’. 23062321

Effective waste management in the Pa Enua is near nonexistent with limited infrastructure and no funding made available to send recyclable waste off each of the islands.

The majority of the waste generated is from single use plastics, but also includes larger items such as washing machines and fridges, and car wrecks, TVs, and computers remains on these islands either buried, put on fire pits or thrown down deep crevasses into a mythical area known as ‘away’.

The problem with mythical areas however is that they do not exist. There is no such thing as ‘away’.

A lot of these waste materials can last for long periods of time. They don’t break down as easily as organic material like our hedge cuttings and raked-up leaves. They also contain nasty toxins and chemicals which can make their way into the soil we use for planting, into the water where the fish we love to eat are living, and can end up in the air we breathe if this waste is burnt.

Te Ipukarea Society with the support of GEF Small Grants Programme has for the past two years been working closely with local communities on Mangaia and Mauke on these very issues.

A mini household waste audit conducted on Mangaia assessed how much recyclable waste (aluminum, tin and glass) and Plastic (PET number 1) could be diverted from the landfill to Mangaia’s recycling centre.

Local importing businesses on Mangaia and Mauke were also surveyed to assess how much drinking container waste from glass, plastic and aluminum bottles is brought on each island each year. Plastic bottle waste was significantly higher when considering the sheer volume brought in. This is a pressing issue given how limited our recycling solutions to plastics are, even on Rarotonga.

The waste awareness campaign through GEF Small Grants has allowed TIS to work closely with each of the local schools to discuss the issues and threats single use plastics have on our environment and health. And also reinforce those simple solutions each and every one of us can apply in our day to day lives to reduce the amount of waste building up in our outer island communities.

Just this week Te Ipukarea Society and KukiTime 4 Kids visited Apii Mangaia to discuss these very issues and local solutions we can all apply. The multi-talented Pheobe Happ from KukiTime was able to work closely with the primary school students using creative tools such as performing arts to share key waste management messages.

‘Taau Taku Tita’ a catchy tune created by KukiTime reinforces actions such as ‘Refusing’ single use plastic, and ‘Reusing’ drinking bottles, and containers for food to reduce the build up of plastic waste outer island communities are experiencing today.

The concept of ‘Reusing’ was also further reiterated during Te Ipukarea Society’s ongoing women’s health awareness programme, introducing new reusable feminine hygiene products such as period undies. Period undies look and feel like normal underwear, but their absorbent material work just like disposal pads during a female’s menstrual cycle. Thanks to some support from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 29 female students from years 6 – 13 were given two period undies to try and hopefully consider taking on board as an eco-conscious and money saving alternative to managing their menstrual cycles.

There is still much work needed in awareness raising and financial support for our outer islands to better manage their waste. It is great to hear upcoming government plans to start prioritising waste by slowly limiting the types of hard to recycle waste being imported onto our island. A lot of these waste management issues and their solutions from the national level were proposed to be discussed in Parliament this past week.

If the advanced disposal fee that Te Ipukarea Society has been promoting for many years actually becomes real, that will go a long way to help manage our waste.