Pacific waste overwhelmingly high in Pacific Ocean

By Joshua Lafoai

Environmentalists are pleading for the Pacific islands to completely ban plastic bags as a stepping stone for a plastic free region.

At the Science Conference 2017: Science and Technology for Sustainable Development, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s (SPREP) Mr Anthony Talouli says countries in the Pacific are gradually moving towards banning plastic bags following continued discovery of plastic made products in marine wildlife.

Mr Talouli is the Pollution adviser for SPREP.

“We know that we have plastics and micro plastics in our fish, 97% of our fish in the region have plastic in them, and statistically we consume more fish than any other region in the world,” he said.

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SPREP's Pollution Adviser, Mr Anthony Talouli. Photo: SPREP

Mr Talouli says research published in 2010 discovered more than 600 tons of plastic waste is being dumped in the Pacific ocean every ten minutes, which is the equivalent of 10 rubbish trucks.

“There has been works for biodegradable plastics and other methods of addressing the issue, but now, rather than that, we are moving towards the banning of plastic materials, a decision committed to by Pacific Leaders at the recent Pacific Islands Forum Meeting held here in Samoa ” he said.

Mr Talouli says human actions on marine debris have always been in question calling it at times a selfish move.

“It seems the only time we ever move to do something about the waste we throw in the oceans are if we humans stand to benefit. We only act when it is for us,” he added.

“Marine debris and the impact it has on our Pacific ocean and marine life is  where we need the most research and science ” he added.

The ban on plastic would be a step much different from an approach taken by some countries in the region like the Marshall Islands, and Fiji who have put a levy on plastic bags.

The levy, explained Talouli cuts across three stages and while everyone wins he says the key goal is to eliminate plastic waste that ends up in the Pacific  ocean.

“The first stage enables the government who are the main beneficiaries to generate revenue out of the plastic bags levy,” he said.

“The second is the business owners who are selling plastic bags who stand to profit because they pass the cost of plastic bags on to the consumer” he added.

“And lastly the consumers are given the choice whether to pay the levy on plastic bags or not, which limits the usage of it. Leaving the choice of whether to use and pay for plastic bags with the consumer,” he added.

Meanwhile  statistics on the levy has shown that while revenue at first for government had grown dramatically, more recently the number  is beginning to decline. Mr Talouli did not clarify whether this is because of consumers choosing not to use plastic bags or not.
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