Conference discusses marine plastic pollution

The impact of plastic pollution in the Pacific islands was at the centre of discussions at a recent virtual regional conference.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme [S.P.R.E.P.] Acting Director for the Waste Management and Pollution Control Programme, Anthony Talouli, led the discussion at the 2020 Pacific Ocean Pacific Climate Conference from October 27-30.

The virtual conference was a partnership between the Government of Samoa, the S.P.R.E.P., the National University of Samoa [N.U.S.], and the Te Herenga Waka–Victoria University Wellington.

Ways of how to address the issue of marine plastic pollution in the Pacific were discussed.

According to a statement issued by the S.P.R.E.P., the issue was discussed on the third day of the conference by Mr Talouli, who explained that there is a one-way flow of commodities into island nations.

“Very little waste is transported out of the islands so almost all the commodities end up as waste at the end of its useful life,” he said.

He added that other sources of marine litter include waste produced from natural disasters, and the routine demand for commodities, all of these ending up at landfills or dumpsites.

Additionally there are discharges of waste into the environment from poor waste management of collection and disposal sites as well as the illegal dumping and littering on land and at sea. 

However, Mr. Talouli revealed that S.P.R.E.P. as the mandated agency to address environmental issues has an integrated waste management approach, through the Pacific Regional Waste and Pollution Management Strategy 2016-2025 or the Cleaner Pacific 2025.

The strategy covers 15 waste streams and addresses and focuses on human capacity, sustainable financing, collection, disposal, recycling, disaster waste, policy and legislation, hazardous waste, atoll waste management, as well as partnerships, which are very important when it comes to dealing with the issue of marine plastic pollution.

“The region also has a Pacific Regional Marine Litter Action Plan 2018-2025 that sits within the Cleaner Pacific 2025 strategy,” added Mr. Talouli.

“The regional action plan identifies 11 priority areas that Pacific states need to focus on to address plastic pollution at the source.”

He also used the Moana Taka Partnership as an example of a partnership which is helping the Pacific address marine plastic pollution. 

This partnership with Swire Shipping Company provides free freight for non-commercial waste from Pacific Islands to any destination within its Asia Pacific shipping network. 

“The M.O.U. for this partnership was signed between S.P.R.E.P. and Swire Shipping Agencies in March 2018,” emphasised Mr. Talouli.

“With the aim of helping to alleviate the burden of waste on islands in the Pacific by enabling Swire Shipping vessels to utilise empty shipping containers to transport non-commercial recyclable waste from Pacific islands.

“This is a critical partnership which facilitates a circular economy, by providing access to waste and recycling infrastructure abroad.”

Last year more than 50 shipments of recyclable waste from Pacific island countries and territories were moved to destinations within the Asia market for disposal and recycling, with S.P.R.E.P. continuing to seek member countries to increase participation in the Moana Taka by investigating the possibility of using the partnership to remove stockpiles of non-commercial waste. 

And countries in the Pacific have also shown great leadership in addressing the issue of marine plastic pollution. 

The Pacific Islands Forum leaders have also recognised the importance of waste management, in particular the issue of marine pollution and plastic pollution. 

Mr Talouli revealed that many islands in the region have put in policies to ban single-use plastic bags.

“There are 11 Member countries of S.P.R.E.P., making up 52 per cent of the region, that have legislation that bans single-use plastic bags and other products, and five more Pacific island countries and territories have declared commitment to do so, bringing the total commitment from the region to 76 per cent.”

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