Findings ring alarm bells

Despite policy changes and marketing campaigns, single use plastics still dominate the waste stream, showing behaviour needs to change too.

Earlier this month, Team Samoa Va’a, the Pacific Games paddling team spent two hours cleaning up the sea wall at their training grounds at the Apia Yacht Club, and picked up a total of 140 kilograms of rubbish.

The team, alongside other volunteers and waste management experts from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P) managed to sort through 11 out of 22 bags of rubbish, and documented what they found.

There were 38 categories of waste, some with overwhelming quantities like 65 plastic drink bottles, and others which were small, like two suitcases, and one rubber band.

But the data reveals that overall, 42 per cent of the rubbish was Styrofoam (in cups, plates, takeaway boxes and pieces), and 35 per cent was plastic (in food wrappers, containers, bags, bottles, cups and more).

Zooming in, the numbers are startling: in just 220 metres of seawall, the team collected 528 foam pieces. And that is from half the bags they filled.

Just two percent of the waste was plastic bags or straws, which S.P.R.E.P’s pollution advisor Anthony Talouli said is a positive result for the government’s ban on those products from January 31 this year.

“Polystyrene constitutes the largest waste category which supports the government’s plans to ban polystyrene food packaging, cups and plates in 2020,” Mr. Talouli said.

Other notable results from the data reveal recyclables in high numbers: items which should be going into managed waste streams to be used again and again.

 The team found metal (metal pipe, corrugated tiles), and paper items (cigarette boxes, paper bags, paper cups, plates) which made up nearly three per cent of their waste, and glass and other recyclables like PET bottles, aluminium cans and tin which made up nearly 20 per cent.

The crew also found interesting things like two suitcases, 18 single flip flops, and a dialysis tube and bag.

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