Waste management is an issue facing almost all of the Pacific Islands.
For an island country like Samoa that is dependent on imported materials such as cars and other electronic materials, the need for proper disposal of wastes is paramount.
During the launch of the Samoa Recycling and Waste Management Association (S.R.W.M.A.) at the Taumeasina Island Resort on Thursday, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.) Director General, Leota Kosi Latu, highlighted the need for Samoa to convert to a circular economy.
At the moment, Leota said Samoa, like many other countries, is locked into a linear economy. Such economies produce, use, consume and dispose of products and materials generating large amounts of waste that poses health, economic and environmental risks.
“Poor waste management and inadequate control over highly polluting activities poses risks to the overall economic base of most P.I.C.T.s, i.e. tourism, agriculture and fisheries,” said Leota.
“These activities are very reliant on a clean environment. In addition, the potential trans-boundary movement of these wastes and pollution can negatively affect neighbouring countries.”
A circular economy is the alternative to a linear economy.
“In a circular economy, we extend the life of products and resources in use for as long as possible. We extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life by repairing, upgrading, or remanufacturing them so that we don’t lose the value through wasted materials.”
He added S.P.R.E.P. follows the slogan of the 3Rs + Return, which is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Return, which advocates for a cleaner environment.
“The circular economy advocates sustainable production and consumption. It goes beyond waste management, and it includes the whole life cycle of products, from the design of the product and production processes, to better informed consumption choices, to modern waste management, and the provision of secondary raw materials that feed back into the economy,” Leota said.
But such economy requires innovative business models that either replace existing ones or seize new opportunities.
“New and additional skills are needed for the final return of materials to the soil or back into the industrial production system. In the circular economy, innovation is the key. We need new technology, products, services and business models to enable the transition.
“An enabling policy and legislative environment that incentivises the private sector, and an all-round approach/strategy suited and tailored to the reality of Samoa is needed.
“We must have policies and legislation that are more integrated and cross-cutting which contribute to environmental and sustainable development but also improve health standards.
“The recycling companies here in Samoa will need support through new sources of long term sustainable financing. Development partners and Government can work together to establish a strategic investment fund from both private and public sectors dedicated to the environment and resource efficiency.”
Leota noted the need to improve reuse and recycling.
“There is some recycling here in Samoa, but unfortunately most of the waste is not recycled and is sent to the landfill at Tafaigata. Whilst Samoa is relatively cleaner compared to other Pacific island countries, plastics for example is now becoming a major problem – not just for the environment, but also poses a health issues for people and marine life.
“Recycling of plastics is extremely low. Most of the plastics go to the landfill, and large quantities end up in the ocean creating marine litter.
“For this reason, the creation of the Samoa Recycling and Waste Management Association is a positive development for Samoa. This is the first of its kind in the Pacific Region and one which other Pacific Island countries can emulate,” he added.
S.P.R.E.P. is working with Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility through six major donors (E.U., J.I.C.A., D.F.A.T., M.F.A.T., A.D.B. and World Bank) in investigating and establishing recycling hubs around the region to assist small countries with volatile economies to keep pace with making recycling possible even in isolated atoll islands.