Investing in community engagement for project success in Majuro

Earlier this month, representatives from government and community organisations gathered in Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands to discuss a communications and public engagement plan for the roll-out of new waste management initiatives which will make rubbish collection more equitable, accessible and self-sustaining.

Majuro is the site of the pilot integrated atoll waste management component of PacWaste – a four year project funded by the European Union and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to improve regional hazardous waste management across the Pacific.

The centrepiece of the atoll waste management project is the implementation of a pre-paid collection system though which specially designed garbage bags will be available to purchase for a small fee. A proportion of the sale of the bags will go to the waste company to pay for the collection and disposal costs - allowing them to expand their services and ensure that the system is financially sustainable.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop SPREP's PacWaste Communications Officer, Ms Amber Carvan, emphasised the critical importance of public engagement to the success of the initiative:

"Pre-paid garbage bag systems have been used to great effect across many countries, but in the Pacific region there have only been a handful of success stories. In evaluating the lessons learned from similar projects, it is abundantly clear that successful implementation hinges on strong public engagement and impactful communication."

PacWaste Workshop
Pictured above: Working on communications tactics to help make Majuro safer and cleaner for all. Photo: A.Carvan/SPREP

At the workshop, participants worked with the PacWaste team to identify key audiences and the best methods of contacting them. They also discussed some of the barriers to successful implementation and role played different arguments and counter-arguments, for each target audience group.

Mr Bryant Zebedy who volunteers as an Earth Champion at environmental NGO Jo-Jikum, acknowledges the challenges ahead, but feels optimistic about the outcome:

"The workshop was fantastic in terms of sharing ideas to actually tackle the issue of waste on Majuro. I believe that it will be challenging to engage the general public to take up the use of the pre-paid bags but Jo-Jikum is well placed to assist with convincing people to use this system which, ultimately, encourages good waste behaviour and benefits the planet."

Mr Anfernee Rynold Kaminaga from the Marshall Islands Visitors Authority (MIVA) enjoyed the process of getting to know about the project, noting that it affects not just organisations but the whole country:

"I'm excited about being able to assist with this project however I can. For example, MIVA has a beautification programme so if we could ensure that we use the pre-paid bags instead of regular bags when we are doing community clean-ups, it would be a step in the right direction."

PacWaste will be working with communities and organisations in Majuro to roll-out the pre-paid bag system over the coming months. The scheme will see waste collection services expand to include all households in Majuro. It will also promote the segregation of green waste and incorporate a used lead acid battery (ULAB) buyback scheme.

For more information, please contact Tim Hartley at SPREP on timh@sprep.org or visit www.sprep.org/pacwaste
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