Recycling essential but not profitable

Recycling and waste management is not profitable, but it is essential, says a waste management expert.

The hazardous waste management adviser for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program, Frank Griffin, said he believes the Pacific recycling industry is still too young to turn a real profit, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

“At this point in time in the region it’s not very profitable, but it is a critical service that needs to be provided,” he said.

“If we do not have governments taking on the responsibility you’ll find Pacific islands will lose its paradise image very quickly because there will be waste everywhere.”

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Companies invested in this underdeveloped industry depend on subsidies to fund their waste management systems, Mr Griffin explained, because there is little money to be made to keep the business afloat.

“There is no value in used oil when you send it overseas for destruction purposes, for example,” he said.

“For the arrangements that countries have with the facility in Fiji, it’s just that they will accept it to fire up their furnaces, they don’t buy it – they take it. 

“In that regard, it’s for the benefit of the people on the islands getting rid of it off their island,” said Mr Griffin.

Subsidies and funding help businesses make the minimum profit they need to keep operating, such as the Moana Taka agreement signed between SPREP and Swire Shipping earlier this year.

“The idea being behind that is that for low value recyclable materials which do not have economic value, the Moana Taka agreement will ship the material at a very reduced freight cost. 

“In some cases it will be free if there is no economic value to the material, and for those which have some value, there is a negotiated price to make it more viable in terms of taking the stuff off the island.”

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