Samoa Pure Water building local solution to plastic waste

Leading water manufacturer, Samoa Pure Water, is developing a new plan to turn stockpiled wasted plastic bottles into the building blocks for new homes.

The locally owned purified water business, which has its own bottling plant, is trying to take responsibility for the nearly 200 million moulds that become plastic bottles it brings into the country each year.

Kennedy Su’a, a consultant in the company, said Samoa needs a local solution to the problem of plastic waste.

“Plastic is a big environmental hazard, especially within the Pacific, where we don’t have a lot of wealth to combat this hazard," he said.

“We have to give back to our environment and come up with an idea how we can actually try and bring about a change, in terms of something that is useful, and repurpose plastic."

Their solution, in collaboration with a South American company, is to convert plastic bottles into "aggregate" bricks which have been used to build safe housing abroad. 

Currently the company is customising its machinery to be more mobile and smaller, to suit Samoa’s market. It will hopefully be installed in Tafaigata, Mr. Su’a said.

Samoa Pure Water has installed collection cages for single use plastic bottles at Frankie’s Hypermarket in Vaitele, Bluebird, Tanoa Tusitala Hotel and at each of their own branches, in Vaitele and Mulivai.

Each cage can hold up to one tonne of plastic, and three have already been filled up and emptied into their stockpile since they were put out in June. Another 50 odd cages are ready to go to a public collection point, and hopefully many will go into schools too. 

Since joining the Samoa Waste Recycling Management Association, Samoa Pure Water has become more conscious about its impact on the environment, Mr. Su’a said. And exporting it to a recycler overseas is an imperfect option too, he said.

“At the end of the day that is just giving it to be someone else’s problem, that is not a sustainable solution.”

Mr. Su’a said investing in the technology will be a long-term answer to plastic waste in Samoa, as well as provide more options for affordable housing supplies. 

He said the bricks will be commercially viable, and because they are produced locally should be cheaper than imported cement bricks, making quality housing slightly more affordable.

Samoa Pure Water estimates plastic from their own plastic bottles alone could make 52,677 bricks per year.

But Samoa, like many other countries will eventually need to phase out single-use plastic bottles, and is already working to encourage people to choose reusable bottles where they can.

During the 2019 Pacific Games, plastic water bottles were banned from games venues, and sponsor Pure Pacific Water estimates their water refill stations avoided 224,000 plastic bottles from going to landfill, or ending up in water ways. 

Mr. Su’a said his company is already looking ahead to a future where even Samoa Pure Water stops bottling in plastic. 

“It’s something we are considering right now,” he said, and talking to manufacturers developing alternative bottling products. 

“There is technology available, but let’s put it this way, it is beyond our capability right now, the equipment is very expensive.

But he doesn’t see Samoa being able to actually phase out plastic anytime soon. 

“Plastic won’t be banned, we will still have it imported, all types of plastic.” So the plant won’t be going out of business, Mr. Su’a said.

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