Waste Levy Taskforce in action, hopes to be in drafting phase by June

A waste levy discussion has begun with government ministries, the private sector and non-government organisations as part of groundwork to begin drafting legislation. 

Last October, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa'ilele Malielegaoi told the Samoa Waste Recycling Management Association (S.W.R.M.A.) he heard their plea for such a levy and publicly called for the work to begin on creating one.

Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s Aliimuamua Seto Apo said the task force comprises his ministry and the Ministries of Finance and Revenue, S.W.R.M.A, the Chamber of Commerce and the Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (S.P.R.E.P).

Aliimuamua said in the coming months, the task force will decide which waste materials will have a levy imposed on them and how much. They hope to have all the research and consultation completed soon, in order for the Office of the Attorney General to begin drafting legislation by June.

A waste levy works by charging a levy on importers on their products as they arrive to Samoa, such as aluminium cans, plastic bottles and tyres.

Consumers can then earn some of that money by returning recyclables to recycling collectors, while the rest goes towards the costs of doing business – the prohibitive barrier in Samoa’s waste management system. 

S.P.R.E.P. Solid Waste Management Adviser Ma Bella Guinto is offering technical advice on what can work best for Samoa.

Ms Guinto said the levy is a great initiative for Samoa and a proven success in other small island states like Kiribati, where in just seven months, 1.5 million cans have been handed in by consumers in exchange for a few cents per can.

The task force is very motivated to make this work happen, said Ms Guinto, and all are agreed on the value of public consultation.

“This involves the consumers, the business community, the importers, so they will all be heavily involved in the development of this work,” she said.

“We will definitely sit down and meet with stakeholders face to face, and it is likely to be sector by sector.”

John Sio, Vice-President of S.W.R.M.A, said the levy would be the best funding mechanism to help recyclers get low value waste off Samoan shores.

Plastic bottles, aluminium cans, waste oil and tyres are just some examples of products that are expensive to export to recycling markets abroad, and Samoa doesn’t yet have the resources locally to recycle them.

“We have to send it back to where it came from, in a processed form, or not,” Mr Sio said. 

Pushing for a waste levy has been one of S.W.R.M.A’s top priorities, as money has been holding Samoa back from seriously managing waste. Adding small levy’s to waste products could lift that barrier.

“For example, plastic bottles could have a 10 sene levy added to it, or a used tyre could have T$5 or $10. It all depends on the value of the product,” he said.

S.W.R.M.A will work alongside other organisations and government ministries on the task force, and during the expected public consultation. Then, Mr Sio said, it is up to M.N.R.E to draft a Bill and submit it to Parliament for approval.

“This is for the good of Samoa generally,” he said.

“If it can be done by June that would be very, very good.”

As well as S.W.R.M.A’s Vice President, Mr Sio is the manager of Pacific Recycle. They collect scrap metal and used tyres, which for now remain very expensive to export. Collecting a levy from importers should change that.

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