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Waste has its own problems

“Each waste stream has its problems,” says the president of Samoa Recycling Waste Management Association (S.W.R.M.A), Marina Keil said.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get plastic, electronic waste (e-waste), white ware, oil and scrap metal off the island in a cost-effective way.

Marina Keil is determined to build a recycling facility at Tafaigata, which would be the perfect place to manage the unique needs of each recyclable before shipping them off island.

The association’s major corporate partner, Swire Shipping has already agreed to absorb shipping costs. 

Representatives attending the Clean Pacific Roundtable discussions in Fiji this year, and Ms Keil said they are well versed in Pacific island waste management needs.

“They listened to the challenges that each island faces and one of those were volume.

“They said they can ship a pallet or half a container with e-waste or plastic but then again who is going to be taking that?”

International recycling markets will buy recyclable waste, but in large quantities, Ms Keil said.

Besides the volume of all the waste, each particular waste stream presents unique challenges.

“With e-waste it’s the volume,” Ms Keil explained.

“The components are very tiny, so it’s going to take a period of time before we can get a container full.”

Plastic has its own needs. Before recycling markets will accept plastic bottles and containers, the material must be washed and cut into a specific size, and Samoa doesn’t yet have a machine that can do that.

But Fiji has the machinery, so partnering with the recycling company there is on the cards, not only for Samoa but for other small Pacific islands, said Ms Keil.

“If we have something going on within the Pacific, we could maybe ship one or two containers but if we are looking further no international buyer will look our way if we say we have one or two containers. They want us to say we have 10 or 20 containers to even look this way,” she said.

Samoa generates an estimated 4897 metric tonnes of recyclable materials per year, according to the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility research conducted in 2017.

But with nowhere to store large amounts, hardly any of those metric tonnes are stored separately for export, meaning Samoa doesn’t have the volume required yet.

“If the materials go to different markets, you can’t mix containers, unless we have a company that can take both,” she said.

Waste oil presents its own challenge – it requires intermediate bulk containers (IBC’s) for export to ensure safety.

“The other delay is the markets,” Ms Keil continued. 

“With these types of things it’s the responsibility of the company that’s in charge. If I was doing plastic it’s my responsibility to look for the buyer,” she said.

Despite this, the association has reached out to donor agencies for that technical help.

“World Bank, A.D.B and P.R.I.F said they would help us source some buyers.”

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