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Tourism in the Pacific Islands driving waste crisis – report

Tourism in the Pacific Islanders is one of the main drivers of the region’s waste management crisis. 

This is highlighted in the United Nations Environment Programme - Small Island Developing States: Waste Management Outlook report authored by Jeff Seadon from the Auckland University of Technology.

The report investigates waste management in island states across the Atlantic, Indian, Mediterranean Oceans, the South China Sea region and the Caribbean, as well as the Pacific.

“Land tourism, diving and cruises put significant stress on natural resources in SIDS and are significant generators of waste," said the report.

“Increasing quantities of the waste commonly associated with consumer societies are entering SIDS (Small Island Developing States) through rising tourism,” the report said.

It added a tourist in a small island developing state produces about 7kg of rubbish a day, compared to about 2.5kg for a local, which leads to a huge strain on already poor waste management systems.

"Small Island Developing States (SIDS) waste management-related issues are not uncommon within global trends - however their locations and environmental sensitivity often intensify the impacts of waste, creating complicated situations that require innovation, collaboration and regional solutions.

“Beach litter creates economic costs because it reduces the likelihood for tourists to return."

With poorly planned landfills and lack of recycling programmes in the Pacific, much of the waste is burnt, buried in illegal landfills or dumped, and about 80 per cent ends up in the oceans.

In the report, Dr. Seadon says the tourism industry needs to do more to tackle the issue.

“Industry by and large is not doing anything. It's still very much in the too hard basket. This is common for the Pacific, it's common across the Caribbean, across the other small island developing states - so it's a world-wide problem."

The report said tourists travelling to the region should try and eat local produce and watch what they are producing.

“In addition, there is a disconnect between those profiting from tourist activities (e.g. restaurant owners and tour operators) and those tasked with managing the effects, particularly the local communities."

SIDS Waste Management Outlook brings forth evidence of the environmental impact of sub-par waste management, and offers proposals for how SIDS can move from "dumping societies" to "circular economies" focusing on effective waste management.

"The promotion of resource efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, delivery of basic services to all, and green and suitable jobs will provide a better quality of life for residents.”

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