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Moana Taka agreement ships rubbish off shore

Tonnes of plastic rubbish, scrap metal and oil previously destined to sit rotting on the shores of Pacific Islands is now being recycled thanks to an agreement with a shipping company that is moving the garbage to recycling ports free of charge

The China Navigation Company’s Swire Group signed the Moana Taka agreement last year. 

So far the company has shifted 26 containers worth of waste. 

It is rubbish that would have otherwise sat on, or even in the Pacific Islands forever, Simon Bennett, the company's General Manager of Sustainable Development said.

“It’s a win-win-win. We’re moving the boxes any way, there is a pile of waste here which needs moving, and the environment benefit,” he said.

Mr. Bennett said the cost of taking the waste off the Pacific Islands is so negligible it isn’t worth calculating.

“I could work it out, but it would cost more for me to work it out than I would find we had spent in fuel,” he laughed.

The Moana Taka Agreement, which is with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.) has helped move 26 containers of cardboard, plastic, scrap metal and waste oil in just over a year.

Swire fills some empty containers it otherwise would have shipped back empty, and helps clear out thousands of kilograms of stockpiled waste from countries without the means to process it.

Non-commercial waste has no value, and many recyclers will even charge to take it. So private companies and government often have no incentive to shift it, Mr. Bennet said.

“The non-commercial stuff we are taking, that is why it’s sitting here, because it would cost too much to move anywhere,” he said. 

The Moana Taka Agreement came out of a spontaneous meeting after a Clean Seas meeting. Mr. Bennett met S.P.R.E.P’s Pollution Advisor, Anthony Talouli, and asked him what Swire could do for him.

“And no one had said that to the U.N or an [non-government organisation] before,” he said.

Mr. Talouli asked to meet for coffee the next day. Overnight, Mr. Bennett called his Managing Director, told him he had an idea and got the green light, which we offered the next day.

“The [Pacific Island] people were saying all this garbage is coming in, and we can’t get rid of it, and I am thinking, we send empty containers out. I had a got idea it would work.”

“It’s for as long as we are a container ship company, working in the Pacific area, we are generally bringing in finished goods.”

Mr. Bennett travelled from Singapore for the Pacific Environment Forum and the annual S.P.R.E.P meeting this week to meet Pacific leaders in person and help them start shipping their waste away for free. 

Update: This story has been amended to remove a reference to the company's nationality. 

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