News Item

Pacific islands move to ban single-use plastics

News 11 Jul 2018

Pacific Island nations are moving towards banning single use plastic with Vanuatu taking the lead with its ban on plastic straws, single use plastic shopping bags, and polystyrene takeaway boxes, being sold or distributed, already in effect from 1 July 2018.

Samoa is also looking to phase out single use plastic and will ban single use plastic shopping bags and plastic straws by January 2019.

Around eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into the world’s ocean annually. Recent studies show fifty percent of birds and marine mammal species have eaten plastic. In addition, microplastics have been found to be ingested by fish, which are then consumed by humans.

As global awareness increases on the impacts plastic debris has on the world’s environment, the Pacific is taking heed and making changes to ban a range of single use plastic.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) Pollution Adviser, Mr Anthony Talouli, congratulated Pacific people and islands in addressing this global issue, and said SPREP is ready to assist their Members “move towards a more plastic free environment”.

“Although a lot has been done, there is still lots more to do. This is not an area that we can be complacent on. Our support has ranged from providing policy and technical advice to communications and awareness assistance. We are available to help our SPREP Members in any way that we can to make positive environmental changes on the ground and to stop plastics harming our natural resources.”

Small local businesses in the Pacific are also making contributions in reducing plastic use such as Myna’s Supermarket in Vaoala, Samoa. As of 1 July 2018, they are discouraging customers from using plastic shopping bags, and are rewarding those using reusable shopping bags.

Myna’s Supermarket Supervisor and Accounts Manager, Mrs Myna Vaitupu, said they want to encourage locals and visitor to be mindful of plastic waste.

“While we can’t completely ban plastic shopping bags right now, we can start small by giving prizes to people who bring their own bags or not give a plastic shopping bag to people who only purchased one or two items which we see a lot.”

She added she was happy when she saw that the Samoan government was planning to ban unnecessary single use plastic items next January.

“We honestly had no idea they were planning to ban plastic shopping bags when we came up with this idea. So when we saw it just this week in the news, we were really happy. It’s good that we are starting to cut back on plastic shopping bags now so our customers can adjust to the change that is coming next year.”

Other Pacific nations that have banned single use plastic shopping bags include, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Pohnpei and Yap States of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. In Fiji, a levy on single use plastic shopping bags is already in place.

Tonga on the other hand has a plastic levy in place since 4 July 2013 which is paid by importers of plastic bag supplies at the point of importation.

Source: Matangi Tonga