Fiji is literally a paradise. It is easy to believe in a higher power or God when you come to this vast group of islands in the middle of the Pacific. Fiji is not like in the tourist brochures at all. There are resorts, yes, and beaches, but most of Fiji is rural in every sense of the word. We live in Koronivia, Fiji, on Koronivia Road near the Fiji College of Agriculture.
It is a dirt road that goes from the Kings Road Junction of the Nausori to Suva road, all the way down to Lokia Landing. If you click on the map you will get the picture. It really is just a dirt road, on an island, in the middle of the Pacific!
My husband and I took a day off from our normal activities on the Thursday before the clean up and went door knocking with a little brochure. The next morning, on the bus to Suva, I met a lady (Liti) and we got chatting, she also was keen to be involved. We estimated that we would have 300 volunteers, and hoped and prayed that we would. We had three committed groups in place and hoped for fine weather and success.
The night before the clean up was due to start, with a commitment from the Ministry of Environment that they would collect the rubbish on the same day it was collected, it rained, and then it rained some more, all night long.
In the morning, Roni, Dom and I went out a bit heavy hearted with out Tshirts, gloves, and bags, and started cleaning. The Ministry had helped out with 600 pairs of gloves, and 1,200 feed bags (50kg bags) plus water and hot dogs. One by one neighbours started coming out of their homes. After a while, we saw large groups heading towards us, thinking they were on their way to the football. They were there for us! Even the local Police rugby team turned up before their game!
What a relief – a godsend – and it really made us proud to be part of this community! We saw what they were made of. Indo-Fijians, and iTaukei alike joined in (plus me and Dom!).
Rubbish Suva foreshore – day after day after day
Between 7am and 12pm we collected more than 1,200 fifty kilogram bags of rubbish, plus eight big 1,000 kg bags, plus metal, tyres, etc. All of this rubbish had been either dumped in the open irrigation drains, thrown as litter from cars, buses or foot traffic (again, view the map and imagine how little traffic there might be), or was on people’s compounds.
The truck did not arrive on time, so after phoning the staff from Department of Environment and learning of their unfortunate miscalculation in hiring a Seventh Day Adventist truck driver to work on a Saturday, I was asked to phone the Minister’s personal staff. I did, and that person was a real pragmatist. He arranged for two off duty garbage trucks to be sent to collect the rubbish. The amount was astonishing – but not if you consider that like many parts of Fiji and other developing nations, there is no regular garbage collection, even though the population of our Road is approximately 18,000 souls.
There are also no rubbish bins – at all! and no way to dispose of rubbish but Burn or Bury. The problem with that approach is that like many developing nations, a lot of the rubbish is NOT ACTUALLY RUBBISH, but recyclables. A very large proportion of what was collected consisted of packaging that could be recycled. Coca Cola Amatil Fiji provided us with 10 cartons of drinks, and eight recycling bags which I collected from their Laucala Beach facility. The recycling was collected by the garbage trucks, and the drivers would have taken it back to Coke.
Large companies that trade in developing nations do not seem to have many regulatory requirements to meet with regards to corporate responsibilty for recycling or community engagement.
Every beach, every road, every waterway – plastic!
In Fiji,it seems that on every road, in every waterway, on every beach, it is hard to take one step without stepping over a Coca Cola Amatil package. Coca Cola Amatil owns Fiji Bitter, Bounty Rum, Coke, and many still and carbonated beverages (see fact book for product lines).
CCA’s Fiji market is stated as representing less than 1% of the group’s total earnings. The total profit for 2012 was $558.4million AUD. That would put the Fijian market at somewhere less than 1% of that figure, which is somewhere less than $5,558,400 AUD for the year (CCA Fact Book)
In 2011, the company’s Sustainability Report (Corporate Responsibility Section) puts their total spending in Fiji on Corporate Responsibility at $178,967 AUD. I was told that the $123,623 for Community Investment is for buy back of recyclables. Charitable gifts and foundations represented $12,949 AUD for the year, and products and merchandising $42,404 AUD. With net profit in 2011 at $532million AUD, one can only wonder at the current recycling problem in Fiji, and why charitable donations to Fiji represent approximately .002% of the net profit for the year as stated in the 2011 Fact Book.
Currently in Fiji, there seems to be no real strategy for recycling. Consumers have to go to the Coca Cola Amatil facility near Suva to collect a bag. Once the bag is filled with recyclable plastic bottles from any CCA product, or any aluminum can (no matter the brand), CCA will collect the bag, and provide a replacement. They will pay $1FJD per kilogram if you drop it off to them, or 75cents FJD if they collect it.
I was told today however, that it may be possible for CCA to drop off the bags to communities and islands on a monthly basis with the delivery truck that delivers the products, and collect the bags the next month. This is a step forward. CCA stated that they are in a holding pattern in Fiji currently with respect to recycling, due to discussions regarding upcoming plans by government to introduce Container Deposit Legislation. In Australia, CCA challenged a move by the Northern Territory to introduce the Legislation. Clean Up Australia has more information and updates on the container deposit issue.
Our little community has shown that people here want to do the right thing, they just need to find the tools to do it with! A bin at every bus stop sponsored by and manufactured from recyclable plastics makers might be a step in the right direction!