City clean up a success: approximately 1000 people came to the party
An estimated thousand people turned up to clean the town area river banks of Apia on Saturday as part of a city wide cleaning exercise, which was organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E) and its partners.
M.N.R.E, Samoa Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development alongside the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P) spread volunteers across the Vaisigano Fuluasou, Gasegase and Loimata o Apaula River to gather rubbish and bring it to a sorting centre at Malaefatu Park.
Volunteers came in large numbers from different ministries, the National University of Samoa (N.U.S), the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (A.P.T.C), Divine Mercy School, ANZ Bank, Digicel, Samoa Conservation Society and more, as well as church youth groups.
While there was no complete registration of all volunteers, M.N.R.E and S.P.R.E.P estimate at least 1000 people came to help in some way. Environment Conservation ACEO Seumalo Afele Faiilagi said he was happy with the turnout, and the opportunity to learn for the future.
“It is very important for us to look into this data to inform future planning, and also to look at the effectiveness of the ban on plastic that came into effect on the 30th of January.
“Whether there a reduction in plastic, or if there is an increase, this is important information and data the ministry will be looking at after the weighing and analysis is done next week.”
The analysis will count recycling bagged and ready to be shipped abroad and the rubbish that went to Tafaigata Landfill, which was weighed by the truckload on the landfill weighbridge.
Seumalo said hopefully the data will help with future waste management policies, like the ban on Styrofoam products from 2020, if there are viable alternatives available.
The work was made easier by the villages up and down the river banks, who did a cleaning session of their own on Friday and early Saturday morning after a Ministry of Women Community and Social Development letter was sent out asking for their support.
Seumalo said the town area’s lack of community governance means extra hands will be important to get the space clean for the Pacific Games.
“We have to make a lot of public awareness for people to understand and importantly change their behaviour of how they look after their waste,” he said.
N.U.S student Jimmy Leausa and his classmates from the Foundation science program were in the sorting tent. Mr Leausa said as a biology student, he has been thinking about how polluted waterways affect marine life.
“All this rubbish pollutes the fresh water, but it also affects marine organisms, habitats, and more,” he said.
“This has been a wonderful experience for me, categorising all this rubbish. And it will be interesting to learn which areas had more rubbish and of what type.”
A long term solution to rubbish and pollution has to “come from within,” the student said.
“We need to beautify Samoa but it has to come from within.”
Current and past students of A.P.T.C were out in force too. Christabelle Schuster, a former tourism and training and assessment student said the clean-up was also a great way to spend time together with old classmates.
“It’s our first activity together with the new students and the alumni, so that’s been fun,” she said.
As she sorted through the rubbish, Ms Schuster said she had found the amount of metal and glass amongst the rubbish surprisingly, and was especially concerned to have seen a medical syringe.
APTC student Shon Eteuati said all this rubbish is just from people not putting their rubbish in the bin. Seumalo from M.N.R.E agrees.
“The waste doesn’t come from nowhere, people generate it through the use of products and through not properly disposing of it, so it ends up on the side of the road.”