PARLIAMENT is to ban single use plastics – a move welcomed by shoppers, retailers and environmental scientists.
The policy drafted by Infrastructure Cook Islands and the Solid Waste Management Committee has been approved by Cabinet for inclusion in the Solid and Hazardous Waste Bill, due to be tabled in Parliament by the Christmas.
“The importation of non-biodegradable consumer goods is becoming a mounting burden for the economy, human health and the environment of the Cook Islands”, the policy release states.
“This burden is evidenced by the growing amount of non-biodegradable waste increasing at waste facilities, in dumps, littering roadsides and streams, being burnt and being washed into the ocean where it threatens oceanic life.”
Water, Waste and Sanitation director Jaime Short says the ban will significantly reduce the amount of non-biodegradable waste entering the landfill.
At present, any recyclable plastic waste is collected by General Transport and baled, ready to be shipped to Malaysia. Non-recyclables are put into the landfill.
“The move to ban these products is due to the fact that they are non-biodegradable, are a threat to human health, and other living things if not managed properly.”
Short says the ban has the full support of local companies, including major importers of single use plastics, such as major retailer CITC.
“Most local companies have already begun moving away from single use plastics anyway.” One such company is The BBQ Shack, located at Cooks Corner Arcade. Owner Ursula Wellman welcomes the ban, saying her company has already adopted several environmentally-friendly practices, aimed at reducing the amount of waste they produce.
“We have already stopped using plastic bags to carry our shopping, replaced our takeaway containers with paper-based ones, and will soon be delivering our meals in boxes, as opposed to plastic bags,”
Another company leading the battle against unnecessary waste is Rarotonga Brewery, which earlier this year celebrated saving over one million glass bottles from entering the landfill.
“That’s enough bottles to go around Rarotonga seven times, or the equivalent to 12 full 20-foot shipping containers,” Rarotonga Brewery bar manager Renasha Nee Nee said then.
She expressed her excitement about other local businesses adopting environmentally-friendly initiatives, such as Prime Foods wrapping their produce in banana leaves rather than plastic.
Consumers, too, seem ready for the change.
Rarotonga resident Vae Papatua was picking up some supplies at a local convenience story, last night. He welcomed the move to ban single use plastic bags, saying it would reduce waste and greatly benefit the environment – and force retailers to offer alternatives.
“There aren’t many friendly options available but once it’s banned, people will eventually have to stop using them,” Papatua said.
“I think banning the use of single use plastics is a good move and I fully support it.”
Secretary for ICI Diane Charlie Puna says many Pacific islands have been announcing their product bans over the last two years, “which has been really encouraging for us here in the Cook Islands working in the solid waste industry.
“And now we have made our contribution to the regional commitment and for the future of our children … Proper waste management starts at the point of production, or in our case, the point of entry.
“With readily available alternatives, there is now no excuse. This is a great milestone for us as a country and one that we should be proud of.”