Future young netball stars making the switch to reusable drink bottles at training. TIS/22100701
In efforts to smash out plastic waste, Te Ipukarea Society partnered up with Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee (CISNOC) to run a month-long “Plastic Battle competition”.
awareness raising competition challenged athletes and spectators to go plastic
free during the Cook Islands games. The Plastic Battle message focuses on
simple swap tactics such as taking a reusable water bottle to the games, as
opposed to buying a single use plastic bottle of water.
waste in the Cook Islands has not been possible for the last few years. Plastic
waste is of such low value that China put a stop to receiving the world’s
plastic waste. This means that all of the plastic waste that we have produced
in Rarotonga since 2017 has been stored in bails at our landfill, left to
degrade in quality with time, and break down ever so slowly into microplastic.
Scientists are only beginning to understand the long-term impacts these
microplastic contaminants have on our bodies; many have been linked to
diseases, from diabetes to certain cancers. In the Cook Islands, reducing
plastic waste is not only a matter of priority for the environment, but also
for our health.
Once known for being
the ‘miracle material’ that is durable and convenient, it is now becoming a
mounting burden for the economy, our health, and the environment of the Cook
Islands. As plastic waste cannot be recycled on Rarotonga, a zero waste culture
needs to be taught and practiced to alleviate our plastic rubbish pressure.
Moving towards zero waste could include day to day habits where people consider
reusable options or opt for drinks in glass bottles and aluminum cans at the
supermarket. These are products that are of value and can be recycled or
The Ministry of
Infrastructure Cook Islands has weekly roadside rubbish collections. Glass
bottles are collected and crushed. While this crushed glass is not effectively
utilised at present, it does hold potential for local use in concrete blocks,
as road aggregate or as landfill cover. Cook Islands General Transport, a land
and sea transport business, also collects waste such as aluminum cans and other
metals for export to New Zealand. While glass and aluminum cans are products
that can be recycled, single-use plastics continue to pile up within our
During the Cook
Islands Games, we encourage food vendors to use biodegradable products to
reduce single-use plastic waste. Consider alternatives to plastic such as
remembering to bring your reusable water bottle to your next athletic event.
One reusable drinking bottle is not only better for the environment, but can
save the average athlete a lot of money throughout their sporting career on
single-use plastic bottles. There are UV treated water refill stations located
around the island of Rarotonga, and you can get safe clean drinking water from
these for free to keep you hydrated throughout the games. The quality of water
at these stations is checked once a week by a To Tatou Vai water quality
In the future, a
ban on the importation of plastic may be the best solution to avoid continued
damage to our landfill, ecosystems, and human health.
But for the time
being, play your part in reducing plastic waste during the Cook Islands Games
by remembering your reusable bottle. Say “No” to plastic bottles and choose a
drink in an aluminum can, rather than a plastic bottle. By doing your part, you
are being a contributor to the ripple effect of changing mindsets and
behaviours that form zero waste cultures.