Humble Beginnings – Royal Chickens

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Well, in case anyone has been wondering just how I have been going with my chickens, from the humble beginnings of the plastic bottle chicken house,IMG_0009 I decided to take a photo.  I couldn’t fit all the chickens in one picture, and of course there are now lots of little ones in the house, which don’t come outside yet except as “supervised play” in the afternoons.  The small ones, I have learned with heartache, are the favourite food of the Indian Mongoose which is very crafty, and can catch a chicken and drag it into its burrow at lightning speed.

IMG_0013The white chickens in the photo are cockerels (male chickens).  The started out as very unassuming birds, but now, well to me they look like royalty!  The are so majestic with their manes and their bright red combs.

The red and black chickens are Junglee birds – or native chickens.  They are also changing day by day and will one day be clothed in gold, red, green and black feathers like the old fashioned roosters of yesteryear.  I am planning to win a prize at next year’s agricultural show with one of them!

The plain red chickens are rescued battery hens.  They still lay the odd egg, and they keep the roosters happy.

I wish I had taken a week by week picture so I could show how they grow, but I might do that next time.

Plastic bottle chicken house – complete!

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Finally, I am posting photos of the completed chicken house!  It has been operational for about a month and a half now, and the chickens are now much bigger than in these pictures.

I can confirm that it is working well, with a feeder made from a recycled kerosene burner, the drinker installed in the wall and also poweraid bottles which are perfect chicken drinkers!  It looks like a stained glass chicken palace now, and is a bit of a local attraction.

I can also confirm that it is definitely mongoose proof, dog proof, pig proof and cat proof!  Ahhh, the sweet smell of success!  Next post on this will be pictures of the rescued battery hens which are now happily laying an egg each a day!  Thanks for the encouragement.

I think that with the sheer weight of bottles and concrete (one 1 litre bottle filled with water weighs 1kg) that it should also be cyclone proof.  Everything in the construction was salvaged except for the chicken wire.  Hooray, about 1000 bottles not on the beach!

To see pics of construction process click here.

Plastic Seas – two minute thesis and apology to taxi drivers of the Pacific

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Source: vimeo.com

I know that so many people are so weary of posts on the big nasties: Climate change, plastic in the ocean, single use plastics, dumping on the reef, turtles wrapped in beer holders and other depressing topics.  I know that I used to be.  Now I feel obsessed.

I used to not take much more than a cursory glance at these things thinking often that I just didn’t understand it enough, or alternately, that the headline and picture spoke a thousand words, and that was about 999 words too much to take in after a busy day at work before having a glass of wine and watching re-runs of “Friends” or perpetually planning to go to the gym, rarely making it past my runners with the socks hopefully stashed inside.

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Source: vimeo.com

Today on Facebook I came across a new video called “Plastic Seas”.  To watch the film see http://vimeo.com/69689785

Over the last twelve months, I have had a change in lifestyle, having moved to Fiji.  So many changes have happened even here in the year since I started this blog.  Many of them positive:  I have been contacted by people all around the world who want my insights on social problems in Fiji.  I have been contacted by people wanting information about where to buy shipping containers to make school classrooms and kindergartens. I have been contacted by people who want to know how and where to recycle in Fiji.  Now, maybe due to the little bits of information I have posted, perhaps I have been an unwitting catalyst in the advent of the shipping container classrooms such as at Basden College, Newtown in Suva.  I would like to think so in my own small way, that I have made some difference.  I have led a local clean up in my old street that resulted in 10 tonnes of trash (mainly plastic) being picked up out of the drains and waterways in one morning.

I have had a lot of time to research as a “citizen scientist” and have learned so much.  As the old saying goes, the more you know, the more you realize how little you know.

If you only watch one video on the plastic problem, and possible solution this is a good one.  It seems to encapsulate the main points.  It is always useful in any academic or commercial exercise to think about what you would say about your topic or business in two short minutes if asked by a lay person, stranger, or client.  If you can encapsulate your main points in a two minute “nutshell” then that means that you really understand what you are on about.

So, here goes:  my two minute nutshell on single use plastics……

For me, I can type about as fast as I can talk as I am old enough to have learned shorthand and typing at school when only the girls who went to secretarial college did so, on an old fashioned typewriter.  How I conned my parents into that I still don’t know, but I digress!

Two minutes starts now:  Since having moved to Fiji and seeing the enormous amount of plastic waste in the environment, I have started to question why it is there.  It is everywhere in the world, not just here.  It is a plain truth that most of the plastics I see here are single use PET plastic drink bottles, and plastic shopping bags.  People of our generation and the next have been somehow hoodwinked into thinking that everything that comes in plastic is somehow more worthwhile, more necessary than the things we used to make do with (such as water from the tap, a paper straw, a shopping bag you had to take with you, or a drink that is not carbonated, and maybe came in glass).  Also, we somehow now NEED chicken and meat that is wrapped in plastic, ice cream in a plastic tub or wrapper, and our children NEED an enormous amount of single serve snacks.

Most of these packages are recyclable in some way, but only about 10% of them get recycled, and about 10% of them end up in the oceans.  Some of them are biodegradable and marketed thus, but are only biodegradable if sent to a “properly managed landfill” of which there are next to none in third world or developing nations.  Herein lies the real issue.

If the plastics reach the dump site that is not a modern “properly managed” site, most of the dumps are near the mangroves.  Leechates infiltrate the water, and are toxic, highly so (especially with the introduction of e-waste into developing countries).  Once plastics reach the ocean, even if intact with the caps screwed on, they do not biodegrade, they PHOTODEGRADE.  This means that the sun breaks down the plastics into smaller and smaller pieces until they are called “nurdles”.

These nurdles are chemical attractants.  That means that they attract any chemical that is in our ocean, from agricultural chemicals, fuels, and pesticides, just like if you have a take away container with your curry lunch, and want to re-use it, it is very difficult to get the curry out without an enormous amount of dishwashing liquid (so you throw it away anyway, a bit hurt that it seems so unfair).  The plastics in all sizes accumulate and spiral in the ocean in five enormous gyres.  The five gyres are sometimes described as “garbage patches”, most famously the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  The edges of the gyres are close to land in some areas, and the plastics spiral out of them and make landfall at odd places, like Hawaii and Alaska, just like if you wet a towel and spin it around, water droplets start radiating out annoyingly.

Most people are not overly worried about plastics in the oceans, as they think that it is the actual plastic that kills the wildlife, and they think, “How much plastic could a small fish/bird/turtle actually eat??? Not that much, so the risk is small.  I will continue to get a lid on my takeaway coffee and always act confused when I am not sure which bin to put it in.”

They are right, the plastic would take a long time to dissolve in the stomach of an animal, so it is unlikely that the animal would actually get “poisoned” by the plastic.

The animals actually get poisoned very quickly by the cocktail of chemicals that is stuck to the plastic pieces (nurdles) which quickly are released during digestion. 

Other animals consume so many nurdles that are the same colour and size as their natural food source, that they die from bowel obstruction.  These animals include whales (they can consume up to 37 kg of plastic before they die), sea birds on Lord Howe Island and over 40% of a species of albatross. 

I wonder what the Ancient Mariner would say about the death of so many ominous birds?

So, what to do? Who is responsible?

There are so many reports from various government and non-government organizations naming particular departments or bodies, but it occurs to me that all of the plastics we use are marketed to us as necessary for our convenience or safety, or “freshness”.  Recently I was shocked when in Australia at a hospital to find a banana vending machine, with every hand of bananas wrapped safely in plastic in the glass case.

Actually, it seems to me that the majority of products that we have been marketed to believe we NEED are profit driven, and we are simply consumers.  Stupid ones.  How many bottles of carbonated beverages do we need?  Do we actually need to drink sparkling this, or cola that?  Not really.  Do we really NEED the convenience of having our sushi soy sauce come in a little plastic fish container with a little plastic red lid so that our soy sauce will stay “safe” on the way back to the office?  Not really.  We used to pour the soy sauce and get the ginger from receptacles on the counter at the cafe, and we were ok with it, until we were told not to be.

Some people think that the drink manufacturers should show that they are corporately socially responsible and instigate community awareness programs encouraging consumers to recycle, and provide recycling bins.  This is flawed logic.

Remember the days when every bottle proclaimed the owner?  Property of Tristrams, property of Coca Cola bottling, property of John Walker and Sons FOREVER and EVER.  Some time in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s the manufacturers came up with an idea (probably a very smart corporate lawyer) that if you stopped claiming ownership of the bottle, then the onus of responsible disposal shifted from the producer to the consumer.

So why is it now the problem of the producer to clean up the mess that each consumer chooses to make when they toss a bottle or other plastic item in the wrong place?  It isn’t – legally you bought the bottle, and it contained a drink.

Therefore, the solution can only be one – for consumers to take responsibility.  Of course, this can be done by pressuring producers, but not in the manner of asking them to take back their junk.  It ceased to be theirs the moment you paid for it.  That is why Coca Cola in Sydney called the police when Ian Kiernan of Clean Up Australia fame presented outside their corporate office with bags of bottles he wanted them to take back.

The only way that we can make any kind of dent on the producer is to stop consuming things, or insist through withholding our money that we want more responsible packaging.  However, people I know who insist on only “buying things that come in glass” are seen almost as weird as those who “only eat fruit that has dropped from the tree”, or vegans who also happen to be soy intolerant.  It is a culture of planned single use, planned obsolescence, and a conspiracy of silence regarding plastic waste.  The world is being consumed by consumers, I guess that is why the documentary is called “Consumed” not “Produced” as the producers have shifted responsibility.

There are whole beaches in Ghana that are choked metres high with electronic waste.  Developed countries send old and broken computers there by the container load as second hand goods rather than waste, with the euphamism that these broken computers are sent to “bridge the technological divide” between developed and third world nations.  Whole communities survive no longer on fishing, but on burning the computers to get rid of the plastic casing, and then extracting the small metal components for sale.  There is a lone Ghanian researcher who I think may also be just a “citizen scientist” like myself, who is taking photographs of the asset tags that are still stuck to the computers, keeping a data base, and is thinking that he will eventually mount a class action against the previous owners who might be such as ABC Council, or University of XYZ in the developed nation of your choice. I wonder if he ever will.

These same classes of people, who now have no reliable source of fresh drinking water or farming land or fishing grounds (where they once did), are then forced to consume food and drink items that come in plastic.  Carbonated drinks of all kinds, water in bottles of all kinds and the like are marketed as a status “feel good” item.  It is the domain of the poor to always strive for these small signs of status.  Now it is also the domain of the rich.  Bottled water is a perfect example.  The marketing of Fiji Water especially in social media is a case in point.

Also, the poor, who survive on trash, or are swamped by it, or out-fished by it, seem reluctant to pick much of it up.  Plastic drink bottles and aluminum cans for example are worth money in almost every country, even Fiji, however, not many people want to touch them once they leave a clean hand and end up as “trash”.

Why should the poor pick it up? The rich don’t seem to be interested in it either.  Culturally, the poor normally mimic the habits of the rich in the effort to appear not to be poor.  Perhaps it will take the rich to create a behavioural norm of picking up what is now classed as “trash” or “ocean debris” for the poor to mimic that behaviour, it seems to work for consumption!

Groups like the “Two Hands Project” seem to have cottoned on to this.  They post pictures of people who look to be not in poverty who pick up as much as their two hands can pick up in thirty minutes on beaches, parks, and other nice looking places.  Simple, effective, and a great tool for people with internet access.

It also can be taken as a consideration that most developing or third world nations (in the Pacific they are tiny islands or groups of Islands which are now termed SIDS or Small Island Developing States) still maintain a chiefly or feudal system, as well as a European style government.  The government of the day makes the rules, but daily life is still very traditional.  In the chiefly system, individuals would not normally come up with ideas and implement them alone, or even in groups, for fear of being perceived as not respecting the hierarchy of the chiefs and minor chiefs.  People have been taught to wait for leadership on an issue, and then follow direction.   Today in Fiji, there are still chiefs and village headmen, as well as a government.

In the past, when tribal wars and feuds were the determining factor in loyalty to one chief or another, and also the hierarchy amongst the chiefs, leadership was expected.  To maintain one’s status, or indeed life, one had to be a great strategist, very intelligent, a great leader, with an excellent and obedient, unquestioning warrior class, fisher class, farmer class, and a loyal village or villages.  Now that tribal wars and feuds are forbidden as an aftermath of Colonialism, chiefs are no longer chosen simply by leadership qualities, but often by birth.  The Western World has demanded that democracy be seen to prevail, or sanctions apply. Those born into a chiefly family may not have the necessary skills to be change agents and leaders.

However, as society still operates mainly on traditional values, people await leadership, but it does not necessarily come.  Action without leadership is seen in many ways as disrespectful to the community.  Action without leadership in the past was seen as a direct challenge to the chiefly title, and cause for a fight.  One had to be very sure of loyalty to the idea, and a very good chance of victory over the reigning chief to take independent action.

Could this be the reason that often the problem of trash seems so marked in the developing world?  People are awaiting leadership?  This is in no way a criticism of current leaders as all the rhetoric is there: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, but without the facility or infrastructure for the populace to do so.  I have never seen a recycling bin in Fiji except at one resort island, and at the Coca Cola Plant security office, oh, and at the mini bus stand in Sigatoka.

Recently in Suva, during a tropical depression (pre-cyclonic rain), many streets were flooded without a critical water level being reached.  Without exception, the flooding was attributed to blocked drains.  Most of the drains are blocked with plastic, but still, the solution does not seem obvious.  Agencies are assigned to clean the drains, without heed to the nature of the problem, and the underlying implications.  If we can’t stop the people buying plastic, then we must find a way to facilitate a paradigm change and enable the people to recycle it – really recycle it, not just post slogans REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, without asking ourselves the question – Recycle where? Recycle how?

What is “trash” anyway?  It is just our perception.

Perhaps it is also a status thing – I am not that poor that I have to go into the gutter to pick up trash, but I am so poor that I can’t afford shoes for my children, and sometimes just feed them rice and milk, or less.  Also, I am not that poor that I need to pick up anything that has been discarded by another, and is therefore “trash”and make anything that I NEED out of it, like a bed, or a chair, or a chicken house, or even a house, or fuel.  Certainly in most developing nations, there is little extra head space for “art” either, and it is left to visiting artists with more ephemeral tastes for trash.  Trash art also is a great tool for those arty types, or those motivated by art.  However, as far as a change agent in the developing nations, it is often the case that those who have been marginalized do not necessarily choose to express their emotions artistically, as in the case of the black diaspora, black slaves sent to South America often depicted themselves as faceless.

This is where it gets interesting. I have not seen anywhere in all my research any one person or organization that has any real power, that has been able to connect the dots.

Most goods that are packaged in plastics and sold in developing nations are owned and produced by companies that are based in developed nations.  For example, Fiji Water is made in Fiji, sold worldwide, but owned in the USA.  Coca Cola Amatil has a bottling plant in Fiji which proclaims in the front office a commitment and obligation (from every employee) to be environmentally proactive and responsible, and owns or distributes alcohol, sports drinks, water, juice and soft drinks, and is owned by Coca Cola Amatil Australia.  The producer of 95% of Fiji’s chicken is Crest, owned by Goodman Fielder, also owned in Australasia.  Coca Cola Amatil got back into the beer and cider markets in Australia in December 2013.  For more information on brands see http://www.brewsnews.com.au/2013/12/back-in-beer-and-cider/

About CCA: An ASX Top 30 listed company, CCA is one of Australia’s largest premium branded beverage and food companies and one of the world’s top five Coca-Cola bottlers with territories in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa. CCA has a premium spirits beverage business, with a portfolio which includes the premium Beam Global brands, and it acquired the Fiji Brewery and distillery in Fiji and the Vailima Brewery in Samoa in 2012. On December 17 CCA will reenter the Australian beer and cider market with Molson Coors’ brands Coors and Blue Moon; The Boston Beer Company’s Samuel Adams and Alehouse draught beer and Pressman’s Cider from the Australian Beer Company, CCA’s joint venture with the Casella group. Rekorderlig Cider will join the portfolio in early 2014.”

Source: http://www.brewsnews.com.au/2013/12/back-in-beer-and-cider/

The developed world feels powerless to help the developing or third world, and feel that it is not something that they can control.  Poverty, heartache, sea level rise, oceans devoid of fish, nations being swamped – what can we do, people may think, from here?

What we can do in developed nations is realize that most of the producers of plastic pollutants either at home, or in less developed nations, are based in our own back yards.  What we can do is use our consumer power (the only real power we seem to have any more) to either stop buying products produced by those companies in our weekly shop or lunch on the run.

What we can do is ask the question and find the answers to:

  • what other countries do you trade in?
  • what have you done about recycling there? not just platitudes, but profit figures, number of units produced, number of units recovered through recycling, number of recycling bins, amount of money spent on community programs such as beach cleaning machines, or scholarships
  • where do you get your water supply? (it takes over 2 litres of water to produce on litre of most bottled beverages including alcohol)
  • where do you dump your industrial waste and is it treated appropriately?

If the answers are not what you are hoping to hear, what are you going to do?  Could you forgo your bottled drink or packet of chips at the footy or would it just seem to reactionary?

I have come to the conclusion that if enough of us connect the dots we might see the following and maybe think about taking the appropriate consumer action:

  1. It is a fact that there is global warming and villages are being inundated by sea, and the polar ice is melting.
  2. It is a fact that plastic is killing wildlife, not just at sea, but on land.  Recently they found that cattle in India are dying from ingesting plastic bags that get stuck in their stomachs.
  3. It is a fact that obesity and diabetes are on the rise.  Fiji has the number one amputation rate per capita in the world from diabetes related infections.
  4. It is a fact that products that come in plastics are attractive, especially to those who can ill afford them.
  5. It is a fact that many families in Fiji and other developing nations do not have enough money for food, education, or other necessities, but still consume a large proportion of convenience foods which come wrapped in plastics.
  6. It is a fact that many plastics are worth money to recycle, but that there is not much of a perceived value as in developing nations, not many people pick them up and trade them in.
  7. It is a fact that in developing nations, diets have become so poor that there are a high proportion of mothers with anaemia, and infant deaths.
  8. It is a fact that most producers of plastic wrapped consumer items are based in developed countries, where they must exercise appropriate social responsibility, but continue to trade in developing nations with impunity as there is little robust compliance framework in place.
  9. It is a fact that weak or developing economies feel powerless to impose stringent compliance networks, and also are too busy trying to provide sanitation, education, and health care.
  10. It is a fact that civil servants responsible for environment in developing countries are victims of poor education and training and are not up-skilled to cope with the new demands and challenges that are mounting daily.
  11. It is a fact that teeth are rotting in children and adults in developing countries due to the amount of sugar in processed and packaged foods and carbonated drinks consumed, and lack of money for appropriate dental care.
  12. It is a fact that archaeologists of the future, or our own grandchildren will not need to dig up the ground to find out what motivated the generation of people with purchasing power since the mid 1960’s  – it will be everywhere, and visible, and evident.  It will be plastic leftovers from the items we “had to have”.
  13. It is a fact that most of these items we don’t actually “have to have” but most of them are actually luxuries, and the trimmings of wants rather than needs, but we have been marketed to so successfully that we see our immediate wants as needs.
  14. It is a fact that these wants are marketed to us for one reason and one reason only – to drive up profits, dividends and attract shareholders for major corporations that are based in developed nations, but trade also in developing nations, to the blissful ignorance of most consumers in the developed world.
  15. It is a fact that we know all this, but have yet to act.
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Sorry Mr Ram – my favourite taxi driver in Levuka Town!

Well, my two minute nutshell was an hour, so maybe I haven’t been able to crystalize my thoughts yet.  Maybe my nutshell takes the time of a long taxi ride to the airport.  In fact, most people I talk to about this are sorry taxi drivers, who are a captive audience.

Taxi drivers of the Pacific region – please take this as my apology!

Piggy and Peggy – free range pigs in Fiji?

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Roni communing with Peggy

For about six months, I have been going to the local vegetable roadside vegetable sellers collecting their waste for use as green manure or compost on my garden.  I go almost every day and am constantly amazed by the amount of “waste” I collect.  There is constant talk in Fiji in the media about working towards what they call “Food Security” which is a term used by politicians and local agriculture experts.  Loosely speaking, what they are aiming for is for Fiji to be able to eventually produce all of its own food requirements locally without having to import food, and without poverty.

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Going for a walk

The figures and statistics are always saying that there are up to 40% of Fijians living below the poverty line.  Up to 40% of mothers with anaemia, a high infant mortality rate, diabetes that is endemic with Fiji having the highest rate per capita in the world of amputations from diabetes related infections.  How is it possible?  From a small market place of approximately 8 “table vendors” (where they have a table with piles of produce to sell) each day I collect approximately 10 large hessian bags of “waste”.  Much of the waste is actually fresh food that is either bent or in some other way not perfect enough to be bought.  I was in the habit of making huge piles of the waste, and then digging it in to produce a permaculture garden, with whatever happened to sprout.

Last year from this method, we ate (without one seed or any fertilizer being bought):tomatoes, motha, bele, rourou (dalo or taro leaves), cucumber, chilli, corn by the bucket load, eggplant, banana, pumpkins galore, long beans, bora beans, bitter gourd, and much more.  Where I have harvested those crops, I now have a large and very tall cassava plantation, flowers, more corn and beans, and a massive pineapple plantation, plus rosella, more pumpkins, more eggplant and cucumbers, pawpaws etc.

Anyway, long story short, I had so much good food being given to me that I was forced to sort it, and use in the kitchen what was still good.  Consequently, we have a very varied diet of fresh vegetables and fruit with often an embarrassingly full freezer of beans, pawpaw, banana, eggplant, mango, cassava, and I make jars of jam and chutney, pancakes and gulab jamen with what I can’t freeze and give it away.

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Taking off around the corner

Even that wasn’t enough to ease the burden of so much fresh food that was otherwise literally going to rot, so I decided to buy two piglets – now known as Piggy and Peggy when they are good (and sometimes Minky and Monkey when they misbehave).  Our little pig house is down a gully.

Normally, when pigs are moved in Fiji, they are tied with rope by the hind legs and dragged.  This causes a lot of distress to the animals, and the thought of my husband dragging a fully grown pig by the legs up a 6 metre gully didn’t bear thinking about.  Animal rights is not a big thing in Fiji – perhaps humans are still trying to get a grasp on their own rights.  Animals are often neglected whether they are farm animals or domestic animals.

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Piggy and Peggy wallowing in a pool of water on their excursion to the neighbour’s place

There is also a perception that processed food is “better” for the animals, or perhaps it is a sign of status to be able to afford processed food.  When I first started getting the surplus of good food from the waste, I offered some to a relative who had a pig.  I was told “thanks, but no thanks – we can afford to buy pig food”.  I was dismayed at this, as their poor pig was almost starving sometimes, and my relative is a farm hand, with a family of four kids who takes home about $100 a week.  In reality, they seem not to be able to afford a lot of things, so I was surprised that they did not want to share my scraps.  Even during the eight months that we lived across the street from each other, not once did they take any for the pigs.

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Having fun at the carpenter’s shed

To save myself and the little four week old piglets the trauma of being hog tied and dragged at a later date, I decided very early on to let them out for a run in the mornings.

I figured it was going to be better all round if the pigs come when they are called…and thought I would give it a try “Babe” style.

They loved it so much, and they look forward to it so much that now they come out in the mornings, afternoons, and any other time if I am alone and want some piggy company.  It is great to see them in their natural behaviour patterns – they dig in the compost, find any puddle and wallow in it (or make a puddle themselves).  They love to interact with the cats, and have learned that they are not allowed on the verandah areas, or in the house (although Peggy has snuck in a couple of times!).

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Bele, another favourite food

If I have to go for a walk to pick some extra bele for them, they will often come too, much to the amusement of the Uni Students who mock me incessantly calling “Piggy, Peggy” and sniggering.  I am not sure that they have ever seen free range pigs.  The only animals that seem to free range are the packs of stray scavenging dogs.

The pigs are now a few months old, and growing fast.  When they run, they are surprisingly fast.  My husband, who at first thought I was more than half mad, has now taken the pigs under his wing, and spends ages with them.  Whenever people come over, he wants me to let the pigs out as some kind of circus curio show.  In a couple of months, the pigs will be ready to have piglets.  I am thinking about whether the piglets will follow their mum up the steps and around the garden.  I am fairly sure they will, and look forward to that exciting event.  IMG_0592

IMG_0483This is the first time that I have ever kept pigs, and it is a delight, although a very big time commitment to clean their pen twice a day, get their food, sort it and cook it.  Their favourite food is pawpaw, but they hate banana.  Who knew?  They love cassava, but hate pumpkin.  They eat only the seeds of the cucumber but not the flesh.  Every morning, they get fresh grass to eat, and then make it into a nest for their day time nap.  About 3pm in the afternoon, they start calling to be let out, and as soon as the gate is open they barrel up the steps at a million miles an hour and then race around the yard to their favourite spots for an update on what might be available.  They they settle down to snuffling in the ground looking for worms and other tidbits, race around the house and move to another spot.  The kids have taken over the cleaning of the pig pen (phew!  great news for me!) and my husband now cooks their food.  When their pen is clean, their food and water replenished and all is ready for their bed time, we call “Piggy, Peggy” and start walking down the steps and they follow (not always the first time).  The pigs are actually so well fed, that they have become fussy with their food – I keep telling them that I have seen other pigs in this country forced to eat their own shit, and that they are very lucky, but I think their vocabulary is not quite up to that yet.  Perhaps I shall make some flash cards.

I have to tell you though that sometimes they are a bit naughty, and sneak away from me when we go for a walk, always about 5 paces ahead of me.  They go from neighbour to neighbour and sniff around the yards.  Sometimes they go and visit Nobbit, a lovely dog with only three good legs.  This is always a bit of fun, as Nobbit is often asleep on the porch, and when he notices the pigs and gives a little bark, they scoot off as quickly as they can, but always go back for more.  Sometimes I have to borrow bread or crackers from the neighbours and entice them back home, sweating and frustrated, and hoping that my husband never finds out!  It always makes a good story, so I end up telling him anyway – never have been good at keeping secrets!

Perhaps I will be the first “free range” pig farmer in Fiji?

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Making a chicken house out of plastic bottles – part one

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Chicken house in progress

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Top of completed wall

Recently, as those who know me are aware, I have been busying myself making a chicken house using hundreds of plastic bottles collected from the neighbourhood.

  • Step one – collect bottles
  • Step two – fill with food colouring and water and screw lids on tightly
  • Step three – dig a shallow trench about half the depth of a bottle lying down to anchor the wall

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    Plastic bottle wall in progress

  • Step four – fill the trench with bottles about half a bottle width apart
  • Step  five – mix concrete (about one 40kg bag of cement to five 25kg bags of sand)
  • Step six – put concrete between the bottom layer of bottles and start stacking the bottles on top, row by row
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    Step one: dig a trench and fill with bottles

  • Steps seven to infinity – stay tuned – I have grand plans!   We will see whether they eventuate, but my grand design should incorporate the following:

  • I have already poked holes in several bottles to make some ventilation and drainage for the lower wall
  • I am going to insert some 30 Litre yellow plastic cooking oil drums into the wall with an opening on the outside for filling and catching rain water, and an opening on the inside for the chickens to drink from
  • I am going to use guttering and a vertical stack of linked 30 litre plastic drums to collect rain water and auto fill the drinkers
  • I have collected dumped kerosine stoves to use as the roof ventilation vents
  • I have already made a prototype of a roof whirlybird ventilator out of a 2 litre coke bottle
  • I have already planted pawpaw seeds outside the sunniest wall
  • I am going to insert wooden fruit boxes into the wall as nesting boxes, with hatches for egg collecting on the outside
  • I may even insert a fresh water pond inside for growing small fish and for the chickens to drink from
  • the whole thing has to be mongoose proof!

    IMG_0598

    One wall completed

Also, since I saw the flip flop art, it occurred to me that I could even partly shingle the roof with flipflops for insulation from the heat, but I am not sure… otherwise since I saw the angel wing flip flop art, perhaps I will breed artistic chooks, and install an art piece inside for their viewing pleasure.

It reminds me a little of one of my favourite books to read to the kids when they were little.  It was called “The Hilton Hen House”.

The construction is coming along so nicely that the teenagers are asking whether we can scrap the chickens and they can move into it as a teenage hangout.  I think that it will be really lovely actually, and am determined to sleep in there one night before we put the chickens in.

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Filling the bottles with water and food colouring

I know they make this kind of construction elsewhere in the world and make houses, schools and other structures, but I never realized it would be so easy (and fun).  If people here in Fiji who live in settlements (slums) had access to the money for concrete, the bottles are free.

Even the timber and iron has been salvaged and saved from landfill.

Perhaps I will write a grant proposal after this is finished.  A great video on the squatter settlement conditions is online at http://www.smh.com.au/multimedia/world/fijis-squatter-settlements-20091127-jwda.html

Ever wondered what are the “5 Gyres” in our oceans?

One of my readers alerted me to a new documentary which explains the vortex of trash in the oceans that is now the size of the United States.  Worth a watch if you are a bit confused about what exactly the “gyres” are.  Watch here

The only solution seems to be to stop consuming things that come in plastic, especially single use plastics.  I am in Australia visiting my sick father at the moment, and am so surprised that the plastic culture here is so strong and ingrained.

To have items that are designed for a 15 second use, that last for more than 400 years seems simply wrong.

If you think deep down that you are immune from the issue, and not part of the problem, living in a developed country where the trash seems to disappear after the recycling truck comes, then watch this about Lord Howe Island. The other day, I had a salad lunch at the hospital and the following pieces of single use plastic were part of it:

  1. plastic container
  2. plastic wrapping for the container
  3. plastic dressing tub
  4. plastic fork

Yesterday I had sushi:

  1. plastic container
  2. plastic sushi fish soy sauce bottle and lid (read my thoughts on sushi fish to fish sushi)
  3. rubber band
  4. plastic wasabi
  5. plastic picked ginger

I went to the fruit store to pick up supplies:

the cucumber I bought was shrink wrapped in plastic – why?

Is there a perception that NOTHING is worthwhile as a product any more unless it is wrapped in plastic?

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Dom sorting plastics that were collected from around our house at Koronivia, Fiji

If you are an artist or film maker interested in making a film in Fiji about making art from ocean trash, contact me.  I have been approached with an offer of funding, I just need to put together the budget.

How to make a herb garden on wheels from recycled pallets

herb

Source:byronobserver.com

My friend Robyn who lives in Byron Bay but has close ties to Moturiki Island, Fiji,  posted this great herb garden on wheels from recycled pallets.  Thanks Robyn!

Also, it appears that if you get your hands dirty, you feel happier – who knew!  But, I must admit whenever the stress of life gets to me I take refuge in the garden, and the reward is that I haven’t had to buy fruit or vegetables for months now and I haven’t even bought any seeds, I just throw the bags of waste from the market vendors on the ground and see what germinates.

boyle

We eat: corn, tomatoes, ochra, pumpkin, sweet potato leaf, pumpkin leaf, beans, long beans, chilli, paw paw, bele, roro (taro leaf), soursop, banana, cucumber, dahnia, bitter gourd, eggplant, dalo, cassava, and the list goes on!

Often people go hungry here, and the papers are full of what they call “Food Security” which means that they are trying to get to a point where all the food needed for Fiji can be grown or farmed in Fiji.  However, every weekend I go to the very small market in Nakasi, and I bring home a van full of bags of “waste” from the market. This waste is called “rubbish” but it is mostly good food, and what isn’t good for cooking, I use on the garden and the seeds grow!

Normally this waste is not even separated, but just sent to landfill with all the millions of plastic bottles, cans and other stuff that is still perceived as waste here.

To see step by step how to make the herb garden on wheels check out Robyn’s post at http://byronobserver.com/2013/11/26/getting-down-and-dirty/

It also reminded me of this photo I saw today.

 

How to make the best ever footstool or chair from recycled paint cans

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Finished chair – dining height

This is the first of four stools that I made more than 2 months ago.  They are in daily use as dining chairs and general chairs, rather than footstools, as we don’t have a couch on which to sit on so that we can use them as footstools – never mind!  They really get used heavily with three teenagers in the house, plus their cousins and friends, not to mention the adults, and they are very durable and comfortable.  They are made from all recycled materials except for the foam and the sticky tape.  I could have replaced the foam with recycled clean plastic bags, or even newspaper, and next time I will try and do that.  I did this because

1. we really needed some furniture, and

2. I want to challenge perceptions of what is actually “rubbish”.

There are so many things that we discard and the moment they are discarded they are then perceived as “rubbish” or “trash” and no longer of use, however, I have found that many of these things actually have a long lasting second use.  I know that this is not news to readers, but I am not sure whether anyone else has tried this with paint cans.  As it would take maybe hundreds of years for these things to break down fully if in landfill, perhaps I have invented the longest lasting chair EVER!  Who knows! I got the idea from a similar thing I saw with plastic bottles which I have linked here. Perhaps the same thing could be done with used large food cans such as tomato sauce cans here in Fiji, or the large pineapple juice or coffee cans.

Anyway, now for the instructions…

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First, bang the lids onto the cans securely.  Then arrange four cans into a square.

Tape the four cans together securely with packing tape.  Make another set of four cans so that you are using eight in total.

Cut four pieces of used cardboard or coreflute (your could also use plywood) to the size of the cans.  Put one piece on the top and bottom of each set of four cans.  Tape securely with packing tape.  Tape the two sets together securely.

Make a cushion for the top out of a used plastic bag filled with foam chips.  You could also try replacing the foam chips with clean IMGP2366used plastic bags.  Tape the opening of the plastic bag, and poke some small holes into it so that air escapes easily when you sit on it.  Otherwise it might burst.

Cut a piece of thin foam (or used recycled materials) to cover the cushion, making sure that the cushion IMGP2367is centred nicely.  Secure the foam with rafia or string, and gently pull the foam down working around so that you do not have any folds and it is nice and tight.  Once you have that right, then use packing tape over the rafia and secure it in place.

Cut another piece of foam that is going to go around the outside, including overlap under the bottom slightly.  Wrap it around, pull tight, and secure with rafia and tape. No need to stitch anything at this stage.

To cover the chair, I used an old sulu or sarong.

IMGP3460Cut a piece of material to cover the cushion area.  Secure with rafia, pull down and smooth any folds.  Secure with tape.IMGP3461

Cut a piece of material to cover the outside.  Then turn this outside piece inside out over the top so that you are going to have the rafia and string on the inside.  Effectively it is inside out.  Secure with rafia and tape.

Note: Make sure that you have folded the overlap so that when you turn the fabric “right side out” the fold will be hidden underneath your final chair.

Once it is secure, then use a curved needle with very strong thread (I used the thread that is IMGP3468IMGP3472readily available here in Fiji which the shoe makers use, but you could use upholstery thread) to stitch around where the cushion joins the base of the chair.  Stitch actually over the rafia that

IMGP3487

IMGP3488you have tied on the inside out base fabric so that the whole structure is secure.  Once you have stitched all the way around, turn the base fabric back down to cover the base, and fold underneath the base of the chair.

Fold the fabric underneath neatly, as if wrapping a present.  Make sure you get out all the folds around the base of the chair.  Pin securely and stitch the “present wrapping” together underneath the chair.  To make the little chair legs to keep the fabric off the ground, I simply used four recycled plastic drink bottle lids and screwed them into the base with a screwdriver.  I was not sure whether the screws would hold into the pain tins, but they really do.

Stay tuned for the next post – how to make a bean bag out of old umbrellas!

IMG_4449

Dom and Finn playing cards with another version of the chair in the background.

Art challenges the lie that “Plastic is Cheap”

A couple of artists create art from plastics from one beach.  Again, calling all artists, do you want to do something like this in Fiji?

http://beachplastic.com/In-the-News

Machine that turns plastics to oil

oil

Source:youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPIHJRIpLRk

A friend sent me this link about a man in Japan who has made a simple machine which converts plastics back to oil, or kerosene (many Fijians use kerosene for cooking).  Since then I have seen a whole lot of back yard versions on youtube.

Fold up shipping container home – another solution

portabatch

Source:dornob.com

http://dornob.com/port-a-bach-modular-push-button-cargo-container-home/#axzz2dIixHHG4

This great idea would be perfect here in Fiji!  Solar panel, composting toilet, and folds down to handle extreme weather.

So many un-used shipping containers here.  Mountains of them sitting around in “container parks” for sale.  Each one costs about $5000 FJD (about $2500 USD) yet the habit here is to build corrugated iron homes for more than ten times the cost which are not cyclone resistant, let alone flood tolerant.

If these homes were also on wheels, they could be moved to higher ground in the event of cyclones and floods, often caused by tidal surges, or even the rising water of the ocean due to climate change which is as we speak, causing villages to relocate to higher ground.

Calling film makers and artists – want to make a documentary in Fiji about art from ocean trash?

IMGP0674

Fiji’s oldest Hotel, the Royal Hotel, Levuka

Tonight I couldn’t sleep and I came across this short National Geographic film about a group of artists and ocean debris specialists (weird that we now have a profession listed as that!) who traveled to remote beaches in Alaska, collected tonnes of ocean debris that washes up there, and are making art from it.  The exhibition will tour the world and opens in 2014 in Anchorage.

IMGP0393

Some of the ocean debris in Levuka, including a washing machine

I know some of my readers are artists, photographers, great writers, activists, yachtspeople, and travellers.  It would be great to make a similar documentary in Fiji, maybe starting with Levuka, the old capital of Fiji which is remote, almost forgotten, and the landing place of an amazing amount of debris.  Is anyone interested.  Perhaps people could send in clips from each part of Fiji and we could compile?

Sorry I posted the link on facebook before felt compelled to write this post, so apologies if you get this twice!  To view the film: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/08/21/filmmakers-document-the-weirdness-of-marine-garbage/#comment-281943

 

Staying on the Coral Coast, Fiji – Things to Do, Getting to Suva, Finding a Toilet

A lovely lady called Emma contacted me through the Facebook site Clean Up Fiji after listening to the 4BC Australia Radio Interview last month where I was asked about recycling in Fiji and what I am doing personally to combat the issue.  She is going to be staying at the Fiji Hideaway Resort on the Coral Coast, Fiji shortly and has offered to help by taking some photographs and doing a blog post or Facebook post of her experiences.  I recently went to the Hideaway to visit some other friends, so thought I might give Emma my tips.  It seems the tips might be useful to others, so here they are with some extra bits added for clarity.  For more travel tips click here:

iskcon

Hare Krishna Temple, Sigatoka

Things are moving along here now. My husband and I are organizing a recycling program at Fiji National University,, Koronivia Campus and also Levuka Town, Ovalau Island and some of the other islands. Community support is growing. I visited Hideaway recently when some other friends were there, and found out that they do recycle there, which is great. My friend said that she asked about the coral planting project and it is no longer going. I believe at Hideaway resort that they used to have a program where you can replant coral http://marineecologyfiji.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Micro-reef-building.pdf . Also, just to let you know, if you plan to swim or dive, take care as there could be nutrients from sewage in the sea which you can’t see as it leaches from the resorts and villages. It can be a  real problem on the Coral Coast. My friend went diving and really enjoyed seeing the fish.  She also went on a reef walk which she enjoyed.  The best time for diving is at high tide so you may have to get up early!

ecocafe

ecoCafe
Source: Facebook ecoCafe

IMGP3925

Horse riding, outside ecoCafe, near Korolevu

My suggestions to you while you are there – visit Kula Bird Park which is nearby and apparently lovely. My friends went there. Sigatoka Sand dunes is also good – an archaelogical site (ask at the hotel). Sigatoka town is nice to wander around, and you can visit the beautiful Iskcon Hare Krishna Temple there. If you go in the other direction (towards Suva) on the normal bus (just wait by the side of the road – it costs about $1 each) ask to get off at Votua Village near Korolevu village. I have a friend there who might be able to meet you if you like. Anyway, once you get to Votua village, then just walk (ask anyone) about 3 minutes down the road towards Suva and you will find the ecoCafe. It is run by a German lady and a Fijian man. They have a nice deck over the beach where you can eat and have a drink, and you can walk on the beach and your daughter can paddle around. They also cook a Lovo (earth oven feast) there sometimes. They sell some nice handicrafts there at the cafe also (better than the ones I saw at the resort).

There is also a waterfall near Korolevu but I have never been there.  You could ask at the hotel if there is anyone who could take you.

A great site for local activities near Korolevu (which is close to Hideaway) with contact numbers and websites is https://sites.google.com/site/fijibeachcottage/local-activities.

IMGP3734

Dining room, Beach Cocomo

IMGP3750

Sign outside Beach Cocomo

IMGP3761

Marie cooking dinner

IMGP3902

Marie at Beach Cocomo serving breakfast

You should also see if you can go for dinner at Beach Cocomo (contact details and pics here).  It is run by a Korean lady, Marie, who cooks the most delicious Fijian/Korean fusion for about $35 a head for 5 course dinner and you eat in a traditional bure with a sand floor, overlooking the ocean.  It is about 10 minutes drive from the Hideaway by taxi and Marie can order a taxi to take you back after dinner.  Tell her I sent you and give her my regards!  It is really not to be missed.  She may ask for a deposit by credit card so that she knows you will come.  Don’t be concerned by that, as she has to buy the fresh food and if you don’t come it will be wasted!  She also does breakfast which is lovely and you can go for a walk on the beach there.  She makes the best babakau. (Well actually, I think I make the best ones, but hers are second best!)

If you have any room at all in your suitcases to bring over some stuff, my friend at The Gap has been collecting donations of second hand sheets, towels, clothes etc that are much needed here. Maybe you could bring a few as she has too much to bring with her? I can come and meet you, or you can leave it at reception with my husband’s name and he can collect when he passes by for work.

IMGP1439

Volavola at home with our Tanoa

IMGP2635

My husband and his father and
our nephew cook the lovo at home

The big bus stand is also right next to the big vegetable market which is interesting and there is a women’s section inside where you can buy some nice patchwork bags in Fijian fabrics. I bought one a year ago and use it every day for shopping and it still looks great. Also, go upstairs, as that is where they sell the Kava (Yaqona pronounced “Yangona”) If you want to visit the museum, then get a taxi from outside the flea market or vegetable market. It will cost about $3.50. The museum costs about $7 each to go in. It is surrounded by a botanical garden and is next to the Presidential Palace where you can see

IMGP4539

Suva Museum, Thurston Gardens

the guard who is there 24/7 in his white sulu with the zig zag bottom. It is also next to Albert Park. If you want to eat, across the road from the museum, on the sea wall is the Bowls Club. They are members only, but will most likely let you in and serve you if you say that you are new in town and it was recommended. Just ask if a member can sign you in. If you are a member of any club in Australia such as a football club, bring your membership and ask to be signed in as an affiliated club member. It is a nice walk back from that area past the Art Deco government buildings towards town. Once you get to the

Suva City Libarary (also a nice building to go inside) and Olympic Pool, turn towards the sea wall which goes behind MacDonalds and IMGP7389you can walk all the way back to the big bus stand over the bridge past the fish market. Once you go over the little bridge, you can see the vegetable market. Cut straight through the vegetable market and it takes you out to the bus stand where you can get the Sunbeam bus back to the Hotel. The trip to Suva is about 2 and a bit hours by bus, so leave early in the day and come back in the afternoon about 3pm to avoid the rush hour. It is a lovely bus ride and you will get to see a bit of Fiji. A few tips regarding

IMGP4728

Mats and Masi at Suva Flea Market

finding toilets: Make sure that you take some toilet paper and wet wipes with you as most of the toilets will not have toilet paper or soap as you are expected to bring your own. If you want to go to the toilet when you get to town then you have to be strategic. There are some pay toilets (50cents each) which are very clean, and you can find toilets most of the way along the route to the museum if you know how. I will put the details and a toilet map in my next message as I have to go and do some gardening now before it gets too hot!

Documentary – Consumed

This is one of the best documentaries that I have watched for ages.  It is about consumerism and sustainability from a psychological and evolutionary perspective, and has left me with a positive feeling that what I am doing is actually going to make a difference somehow, and that I must do it…

If you like documentaries, and wonder why your latest purchase that you simply had to have hasn’t made you happier by the end of the week that you bought it, and have a feeling of confusion as to why, then this is a good film to watch.

It also put into a bit of perspective for me as to how I managed to live such a consumer driven life in a Developed country for 48 years without doing much, and why I have had a change of heart since moving to Fiji, and have said “enough is enough”.  I am more driven here by the simpler challenges of life such as planting our food, wondering how to get from A to B, what the weather will be like, and why did the goats eat all my crops!

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/consumed/

How to make a thatched roof from PET bottles

plastic thatch

Plastic thatch from PET bottles
Source: http://www.inhabitat.com

Here’s an idea!  So many bottles dumped in Fiji every year and thatching is also now hard to come by as the land is cleared and unsustainable farming practice leaves little room for growing traditional building materials.

Thatch can be made from plastic bottles cut into long strips – this man has made a machine, but it is really quick to do it by hand.  My son loves doing it just for fun when I am trying to make other useful stuff from the bottles – he does one in about a minute.

Perfect for tropical climates.

http://inhabitat.com/hand-powered-machine-can-make-thatch-roofs-from-plastic-bottles-in-tropical-climates/

How to make an Outdoor Pizza Oven using recycled stuff

Courtesy of Classic Marine Iguana – this is a great instruction manual including pics of how to make your own pizza oven using stuff which you can find either in your own back yard, or lying around.  I know that if I want to make one of these here in Fiji (which I do!) if I keep my eye out, now that I have the “shopping” list of free stuff to source, I will find it all in about 10 days and bring it home bit by bit from the side of the road.

No electricity, no kerosene, no gas!  Perfect for rural and island communities, villages and settlements!

http://classicmarineiguana.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/100-pizza-oven/

Rocket Stove – no kerosene needed!

stoveAnother idea for using all the tin cans we have here in Fiji – most people don’t have a fridge, and you can only normally buy fish in a big bundle which is too many to eat at once unless you are having a lovo.  Therefore most fish is eaten from a can.  Also, most people eat beef from a can, oh, and lamb from a can.  Cans everywhere.  Kerosene stoves are usual here, as gas is also expensive.  Here is an idea for a kerosene free stove for heating water and cooking a few things….

With almost half of Fijians living in poverty, this could be one part of the solution.

http://logcabincooking.com/hobo-tin-can-portable-rocket-stove-class/

Light! 1 bottle, 2 caps of bleach – just add water

lightHere is the article, with instructions!  Electricity free light using recycled plastic bottle, 2 caps of bleach, and water.  So many settlements here in Fiji and I haven’t seen this being used here yet…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23536914

Everyone gets overwhelmed by ocean plastic

I was looking around for another video to watch to further my education into nurdles and other things I previously knew nothing about like photodegrading versus biodegrading and why I can no longer sleep.  Ironically, I was looking for a video on plastics to try and put me to sleep for an hour or so….  I was at the same time emailing a good friend about her hugely private life, and that I am feeling overwhelmed.  All the things I used to think are now seen in a different light, and it is making me tired.  My brain needs a rest…I feel I can’t function until I come to a resolution as to what exactly I am going to do.  I realize that it is really overwhelming and that I can’t solve the problem, or even a satisfactory portion of it.  So many smart people already working on it.  Some of them have been working on it for years, but then when you watch the youtube video you see that it might have only 500 hits!  How, I started to wonder?  Don’t their own friends even care, let alone their students, colleagues, or the media?

Since I started thinking about HOW to solve a problem that exists here in Fiji, of rubbish, rubbish everywhere, I decided to first gain a better understanding of WHAT the problem really is…. Is it consumers, is it multinationals, is it tourists, is it laws or their absence or flouting, is it plastic itself that is the problem, is it our seduction by it and dependency on it.  What did people do in the 60’s without so much of it.  I don’t know, I was a kid!  I remember some things, through the eyes of a 5 year old – so I am not sure that I should base any academic assumptions on those memories or perceptions!

I want to find out so much because I now (knowing a bit more) feel a HUGE responsibility to make sure that the strategy I put in place is going to be effective, not let people down, not harm the environment more. I want to put something in place that works and is effective.  I also realise that all this research must have affected my brain as I have the urge to hit “CAPS LOCK” all too often.  Like a child’s drawing where mummy has huge hands, I want to magnify what is obviously most important in my brain.

Long story short – there is now a bottle made from recovered and recycled Ocean Plastic.  It is by a company called Method.  http://methodhome.com/ocean-plastic/

On the site there are also some videos that show how the ocean plastic is collected, what is ocean plastic, why is it bad etc.  That might be good for me to show my family so that they understand what has gotten into me lately and why I can’t just relax and enjoy living in a tropical island paradise!

I was reading an interview with one of the founders of Method, Adam Lowry,  and he says the following (I think I am up to the overwhelmed stage) which is helpful.  Whatever strategy I decide on over the next week or so must be one that doesn’t focus on sacrifice…

….He says, “everyone gets overwhelmed by ocean plastic”, which is comforting, as after watching Plasticized, Plastic Oceans, the 5 Gyres, birds falling out of the sky on Lord Howe Island (or at least dying from ingesting plastic that they thought was fish), the Greenpeace ad where birds did fall out of the sky, etc, I am officially overwhelmed….

At the bottom of the page they also have some ocean facts that are easy to understand.  Anyway, Adam Lowry says:

Recycled packaging isn’t a very compelling story for consumers, though, which is why I started thinking about ocean plastic. Everyone who learns about this issue gets overwhelmed by it: these tiny bits of micro-plastic that gather in huge islands and get swallowed by birds and fish, then enter our food chain… What if we could take some of it out of the ocean and put it on the shelves of a national retailer? That would make a good come-back to any excuses: if Method can turn something that’s been floating in the ocean for a decade into a useable bottle, then PCR packaging isn’t impossible. So, in many ways, when we made a bottle out of ocean plastic, it was a device to get the conversation started. – See more at: http://www.forumforthefuture.org/greenfutures/articles/adam-lowry-can-we-put-ocean-plastic-shelves#sthash.DDoT6RHg.dpuf

Source: http://www.forumforthefuture.org/greenfutures/articles/adam-lowry-can-we-put-ocean-plastic-shelves

PCR packaging is impossible, they said

Packaging is crying out for radical change. When it comes to plastic, there are billions of tonnes of it already in circulation, but other brands reject post-consumer waste as a material. For one thing, the consumer doesn’t care enough about it, and it’s also hard to source. Coca-Cola used to have the world’s largest plastics recycling plant in South Carolina, but they shut it down and turned instead to virgin plastic from sugar cane. When we set out to design a bottle from 100% post-consumer recycled material (PCR), we were told it was impossible – especially if we wanted clear, high quality bottles in vibrant colours. True, when we first started looking into it, we could only get brown, dingy ones. We had to go right back to the plastics curbside collection systems and push for the contaminants turning it brown to be removed, and then help refine the recycling process, to get the right grade of resin to make bottles that are 100% PCR, and yet as clear as the virgin plastic ones.

Everyone gets overwhelmed by ocean waste

Recycled packaging isn’t a very compelling story for consumers, though, which is why I started thinking about ocean plastic. Everyone who learns about this issue gets overwhelmed by it: these tiny bits of micro-plastic that gather in huge islands and get swallowed by birds and fish, then enter our food chain… What if we could take some of it out of the ocean and put it on the shelves of a national retailer? That would make a good come-back to any excuses: if Method can turn something that’s been floating in the ocean for a decade into a useable bottle, then PCR packaging isn’t impossible. So, in many ways, when we made a bottle out of ocean plastic, it was a device to get the conversation started. We don’t plan to make every bottle from it: that would not be the most sustainable thing to do.

– See more at: http://www.forumforthefuture.org/greenfutures/articles/adam-lowry-can-we-put-ocean-plastic-shelves#sthash.DDoT6RHg.dpuf

PCR packaging is impossible, they said

Packaging is crying out for radical change. When it comes to plastic, there are billions of tonnes of it already in circulation, but other brands reject post-consumer waste as a material. For one thing, the consumer doesn’t care enough about it, and it’s also hard to source. Coca-Cola used to have the world’s largest plastics recycling plant in South Carolina, but they shut it down and turned instead to virgin plastic from sugar cane. When we set out to design a bottle from 100% post-consumer recycled material (PCR), we were told it was impossible – especially if we wanted clear, high quality bottles in vibrant colours. True, when we first started looking into it, we could only get brown, dingy ones. We had to go right back to the plastics curbside collection systems and push for the contaminants turning it brown to be removed, and then help refine the recycling process, to get the right grade of resin to make bottles that are 100% PCR, and yet as clear as the virgin plastic ones.

Everyone gets overwhelmed by ocean waste

Recycled packaging isn’t a very compelling story for consumers, though, which is why I started thinking about ocean plastic. Everyone who learns about this issue gets overwhelmed by it: these tiny bits of micro-plastic that gather in huge islands and get swallowed by birds and fish, then enter our food chain… What if we could take some of it out of the ocean and put it on the shelves of a national retailer? That would make a good come-back to any excuses: if Method can turn something that’s been floating in the ocean for a decade into a useable bottle, then PCR packaging isn’t impossible. So, in many ways, when we made a bottle out of ocean plastic, it was a device to get the conversation started. We don’t plan to make every bottle from it: that would not be the most sustainable thing to do.

– See more at: http://www.forumforthefuture.org/greenfutures/articles/adam-lowry-can-we-put-ocean-plastic-shelves#sthash.DDoT6RHg.dpuf

Everyone gets overwhelmed by ocean waste

Recycled packaging isn’t a very compelling story for consumers, though, which is why I started thinking about ocean plastic. Everyone who learns about this issue gets overwhelmed by it: these tiny bits of micro-plastic that gather in huge islands and get swallowed by birds and fish, then enter our food chain… What if we could take some of it out of the ocean and put it on the shelves of a national retailer? That would make a good come-back to any excuses: if Method can turn something that’s been floating in the ocean for a decade into a useable bottle, then PCR packaging isn’t impossible. So, in many ways, when we made a bottle out of ocean plastic, it was a device to get the conversation started. We don’t plan to make every bottle from it: that would not be the most sustainable thing to do.

– See more at: http://www.forumforthefuture.org/greenfutures/articles/adam-lowry-can-we-put-ocean-plastic-shelves#sthash.DDoT6RHg.dpuf

Recycled packaging isn’t a very compelling story for consumers, though, which is why I started thinking about ocean plastic. Everyone who learns about this issue gets overwhelmed by it: these tiny bits of micro-plastic that gather in huge islands and get swallowed by birds and fish, then enter our food chain… What if we could take some of it out of the ocean and put it on the shelves of a national retailer? That would make a good come-back to any excuses: if Method can turn something that’s been floating in the ocean for a decade into a useable bottle, then PCR packaging isn’t impossible. So, in many ways, when we made a bottle out of ocean plastic, it was a device to get the conversation started. – See more at: http://www.forumforthefuture.org/greenfutures/articles/adam-lowry-can-we-put-ocean-plastic-shelves#sthash.DDoT6RHg.dpuf

This is Fiji – my day off from blogging!

Yesterday, I took a day off from blogging, and researching the effects of beverage plastic PET bottles and other plastics on the environment here in Fiji.  I have a wonderful friend who sent some stuff from home with her friends to Fiji.  My friend collected up some old footy jerseys, footy socks, some solar lights (thanks, and if anyone else is coming to Fiji, please ask your friends to pack a couple of sets of solar fairy lights in their luggage and I will collect from wherever they are!).  Solar fairy lights give enough light to eat, do evening stuff as a family and stay on all night until dawn.  They seem to stay lit a lot longer than the other types of solar bulbs for some reason.

Anyway, so I arranged to meet Katie and Tony Hiller who run the Mount Glorious Butterflies near Brisbane, Australia (www.mountgloriousbutterflies.com)

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Village near Korolevu, Coral Coast, Fiji

They arrived a week ago and leave today so yesterday was my last chance.  With one thing and another (got my wallet stolen, no cash, no cards, no transport) I kept putting off our meeting.  Yesterday, thinking I had money in the bank, I got a bus to Nakasi.  I tried my ATM, but no joy.  On to Suva.  I was lucky enough to get in a return cab for $1.50 (same price as the bus) and met a fellow passenger who is the team manager for the Davuilevu Knights Rugby Under 16s League Club.  Now my son can finally go to footy training!  The club is affiliated with the Newcastle Knights in Australia, but they are still waiting on training jerseys, balls and other equipment.  Apparently the old contact has now left, and things seem to have broken down.  If you have any spare football jerseys, boots of any size, shorts, socks, balls, pumps, or spikes, let me know and I can arrange to get them here.  There are very few clubs outside of schools, unlike in Australia, and this is the first one I have found.  I gave the guy my number, he said he would call.  I got to Suva and they guy (Andrew) offered to walk me to the minivan stand, but I told him that I was ok, as am used to finding my way around in Suva.

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The ubiquitous Coke truck – Coca Cola has basically branded Fiji – it is everywhere!

The cab dropped us off outside the Flea Market. From there I had planned to go to the ATM, get out some cash, buy them a gift as a momento of Fiji, and then travel to the Fiji Hideway Resort on the Coral Coast by minibus to meet my friends.  Well, I had made a boo boo on my internet banking, so when I got to Suva, no cash.  I only had $25 in my wallet and the return fare to meet them and get home was $23.  I decided to make the trip.

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Katie in the traditonal Bure (hut) that is on display at the Fiji Hideaway

I got in the Suva to Sigatoka minibus for $10 and enjoyed the ride.  As always, I was constantly thinking about the mangrove reclamation (a euphamism they use here for the destruction of the mangroves where they cut, then burn, then cover in hessian or similar, then cover with dirt, then build industrial areas) outside of Lami, the Coca Cola, Fiji Water and their other brands and the thousands of bottles on the side of the road, in the creeks and river mouths etc, but decided to give my mind a rest and let some thoughts collect.

For Katie and Tony, on their first overseas trip in nine years, they were literally forced to relax.  Tony did so much at home before they left that he gave himself acute sciatica and could not go anywhere at all.  They did make one trip to the Kula Bird Park which they really enjoyed as Tony breeds and studies birds and Katie is an insect lover who breeds butterflies.   Luckily, they were in the perfect place to relax – a resort in Fiji!  Katie joked about the need for a wheelchair, but in Fiji, I know that any of the Fijian lads who work at the hotel would have happily carried Tony where ever he wanted to go – life is just like that here.  We want every one to be happy – really and truly.

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View from the truck on the ride home

I had the nicest day with Katie and Tony, who are on their way to Nadi airport right now.  By the time they get home, they will be on the internet – as promised!  What an interesting couple.  Katie was born in Aruba, and when she was growing up, she remembers there being only one hotel which the locals called “The New Hotel”.  Now apparently, Aruba is a tourist mecca.  Katie then moved to the mainland USA and then went traveling.  Forty years ago almost to the day she sailed on a yacht to Fiji and landed near Suva.  She loves diving, and still had a hankering to see and dive the Great Barrier Reef, so she traveled to Australia.  Tony, who used to work at a Zoo in the UK (the name escapes me but here is a list of UK Zoos, and Tony might fill in.  He says that the Zoo he used to work at has really come ahead since he has left – I pointed out that that might not be a coincidence!  Anyway, Tony, forty years ago had gone to Heron Island to collect samples of insects or birds, and as he tells it, he collected an extra specimen, Katie.

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Katie, me and Tony

They are a young and vibrant couple, Tony is 71 and Katie is 62.  We talked and talked about rubbish in Fiji, rubbish in the ocean, country life, travel plans for the future, their butterfly and bird park, and my obsession with plastic trash. I even stopped and asked the hotel garbage collector staff what happens with their waste.  They tell me that at the Fiji Hideaway, all rubbish is taken to the back area and sorted into plastic bottles, glass wine bottles, cans and paper, then the rest, and the recyclables collected by a company called

Waste Recyclers(Fiji) Ltd
Phone: 336 1055/992 1056 (Lot 26 Wailada Subdivision, Lami),
Email: wasterec@connect.com.fj

This has to be a good thing!  Suva City Council states that

A total of 1,954,120 kg of rubbish(house garbage, green waste, general refuse) were disposed of at Naboro Landfill. Source: http://suvacity.org/home-composting/

It is not clear whether this is a yearly for 2012, or a total figure since the landfill was established.

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Bele flower – the first time I have seen one, at the Fiji Hideaway display food garden. We normally eat the leaves too fast and the flowers never get to form. Bele is in the hibiscus family and really delicious

I finally tore myself away at about 5pm, to give Katie and Tony some time to enjoy their last night in Fiji, and went across the road to wait for a minivan.  I met a taxi driver who hailed a truckdriver friend.  The driver was not going to Suva, but was going all the way to 9miles, which is a $2 taxi fare from my house!  What a great trip.  Along the way, other passengers got in and out, and we all talked.  In Fiji, everyone is happy to talk.  Everyone wants to know about you, and wants to share information about themselves.

Katie was mentioning that at the resort, everyone says “Bula” which is kind of loosely translated as “Hello” but in a happy way, sort of “Happy Hello”.  I think she wondered whether it was just a tourist thing, but it really is genuine.  Fijians as a nation (including all Fijians, whether iTaukei, Indo-Fijians, or the quaintly named “Others”) are to me at least, very genuine.

Sitting up in the cabin of the truck, I had a great view, a seat to myself, with my big bag of stuff from home stored comfortably at the back!

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Deo, the truck driver

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Deo’s boss who found me a taxi

On arriving back in 9miles, the driver, Deo, gave me his number and invited me to visit at home with his wife.  His supervisor, Suresh, immediately got my bag, helped me jump out of the truck (I literally did have to jump), and insisted on hailing me a taxi to make sure I got home safe.

When I told the driver where I wanted to go, he headed to my old house, remembering me and where I used to live before we moved a couple of weeks ago.  I got home, and still had $5 left in my purse.  I came home happy.  Half an hour after I got home, guess who called – Andrew from the footy club, as promised!

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Katie outside the Fiji Hideaway, saying our good byes

So nice to see and hear from people from home, and so nice to meet new people here.  I know that Tony and Katie will be back to Fiji – they have to come – my husband wants to cook them a lovo!  One week in Fiji is really not enough – if you come, please come for at least 10 days.  We would have been so honoured to have Katie and Tony as guests in our home for a night or two, and show them some of our little part of Fiji, and hope that next time, as they only have to save for the air fare, and not the accommodation, that they will take us up on it, and that it is not nine years from now!

Plastic Oceans – Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island Group
Source:UNESCO http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/186

Did you think it was safe to assume that if you are in Australia or another developed country that you have plastic under control….Just in case you thought for a second that I was going slightly mad, or had yourself convinced of it, with my new found obsession with plastics and in particular plastic beverage bottles that find their way into the ocean here in Fiji….here is another video.  This segment was made on Lord Howe Island, seemingly pristine and remote, but home to the sea bird that is officially the most contaminated sea bird world wide through plastic ingestion.  To watch Catalyst ABC TV’s “Plastic Oceans” click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwTDvqaqPlM

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Plastic bottles, Nakasi, Fiji

Estimates are that between 30% and 50% of all ocean debris is the packaging from the beverage industry.  Next time you buy a bottle of water, or a carbonated soft drink in plastic, or the kids say they really NEED it, and you want to show the kids what happens to it, and where it ends up, show them this.  The clip really explains well in lay man’s terms how plastic breaks down over time with sunlight, and how it is a chemical attractant that moves up the food chain with disasterous consequences.

Interestingly, on the three quarters of the Australian Coastline already surveyed, the only place where they do not find significant amounts of complete plastic bottles on the shoreline is South Australia, which has container deposit legislation whereby you can return your bottles to the shop for money.  The EPA states that in South Australia,

In 2010-11 approximately 47,000 tonnes or 593 million beverage containers were returned to depots for refund. The overall return rate for this period was 80.4%.

Source: http://www.epa.sa.gov.au/page.php?page=262

Serious trash problem in Paradise – photos from Indonesia

I won’t comment – here is the link to the article and more pics.  Plus reference to Coca Cola who sponsored this surfer after being linked by the Indonesian government to a large proportion of floating visible trash. http://www.grindtv.com/action-sports/surf/post/surfing-paradise-has-a-serious-trash-problem/.

If you are into surfing and eco solutions check out more at http://sustainablesurf.org/category/blog/

I would be interested in any similar pictures from Fiji.Dede SURYANA

Planned Obsolescence

A reader kindly sent me a link to the documentary “Planned Obsolescence”.  You can watch it here http://archive.org/details/PlannedObsolescenceDocumentary.

Did you know that in Livermore, California, there is a light bulb that has been burning since 1901 continuously?  Apparently there was a light bulb conspiracy in which bulb manufacturers all agreed as a cartel of sorts that bulb life should be set at 1,000 hours to drive consumption of the product.

Apparently, many printers have a small chip in them that pre-sets the number of prints the machine will make before it just shuts down.  A Russian programmer has developed free-ware that can be downloaded to reset the counter.

Lots of interesting snippets.

Watch the documentary for discussion on the evolution of planned obsolescence and the growth society.  Also amazing to see the shipping containers of e-waste (obsolete computers and other electronics) that are shipped to Ghana for dumping using the loophole of the dumping developed countries declaring the goods as “second hand” and somehow bridging the electronic divide.  The images are quite shocking.

Here in Fiji, there are container loads and container loads of second hand clothing that are sent here for sale.  Often the price of the clothes second hand is more than the original new price in the developed country.  I suspect that a lot of the stores selling these goods which look like they have been thrown away, rather than donated, are set up as “Charitable Organisations” which saves thousands of dollars on sea freight.  I have yet to see any chartiable works that they are involved in.

I also wonder how Fijian people got conned into the mindset that you must wear old and worn out Western clothing, purchased at a price that financially disadvantages the family, to be appropriately dressed.  For example, the other day I wanted to buy a long sleeve Tshirt as it is a bit cool in the evenings here.  I found a black really old one that looked worn and comfortable.  Perfect!  I thought.  I can wear it after my bath and pad around the house and wear it to bed.  The cost was $7.99 Fijian dollars.  I declined to buy it saying that the new price for the product at Kmart in Australia was $4 (I know because I bought the exact shirt last year).  I was then asked what I wanted to pay for it.  I said I would only think it was worth $1.99 at the most.  I was sold the top at the price of $1.99.  I wasn’t trying to haggle, just that $7.99 is a lot when many people in Fiji earn $10 a day.

Second hand clothing shops are everywhere here, even at the roadside.  It would be interesting to see how many were operating as Charitable Organizations, and how much of their income is spent on charitable causes.  I am fairly certain that there is little regulation after the license is granted to sell second hand goods.  Many shops also sell New Zealand and Australian second hand white goods and televisions.  These items appear to me that they have been picked up off the side of the road at Council Clean Up and then shipped to Fiji for profit, with no concern about whether they are in working order, or electrically safe.

I was thinking last night about how big companies have sought to and been successful in making the shift from proprietary ownership of their waste with declarations on their bottles such as “This bottle always remains the property John Walker & Sons Ltd”, or “Property of Coca Cola Bottling Company”, and shifting the ownership and onus of disposal to the individual consumer who purchased both the bottle and the contents.

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Market, Nakasi, Fiji

I am trying to bridge the disconnect in my mind about how companies can produce so much waste and be flippant about its disposal or re-use,

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PET bottles seem to spew from a drain in Nakasi, Fiji. Actually the drain is just near the bus stop. There are two big supermarkets at that bus stop, MH and RBPatel. Neither of them have recycling facilities.

or even as is the case with companies I have been dealing with, being very defensive and secretive about what other kinds of waste they produce that they still “own” such as waste sugar sludge from bottling plants in developing nations.

As I prepare myself to take on the bottlers and effectively force them to re-engage and collect their waste here in Fiji, I guess that one of the things that has made me want to do so much research in advance is the bewilderment I feel regarding

the attitude of the producers of the waste and their complete disinterest in the mayhem it is causing.

Thank you so much to all readers who are sending through information and suggestions, and please keep sending them through.

Currently I am involved with a committed group and there is a movement to make the first plastic bag free town in Fiji.  Part of being able to make this successful is for me to have a fuller understanding of why, as consumers, we have become so invested in the concept that we have a right to plastic, and a right to purchase an item that is meant for single use, is discarded immediately, but lasts forever.

In the film, one Ghanian researcher is building a data base of company asset tags found on the discarded and dumped e-waste with a plan to use the data base to force social responsibility on to those companies.  One man, working alone, in his house in Ghana, best wishes to him.

 

For ever-ever? This bottle always remains the property of John Walker & Sons Ltd

Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskey bottle with
the words embossed on the side –
“This bottle ALWAYS remains the property of John Walker & Sons Ltd”

As I have been redefining in my mind what rubbish really is, what is the point of all the plastics in the world and why are individuals taking on the huge responsibility of creating awareness in so many ways, I started to think that maybe the shift has occurred due to many large producers almost shoving ownership rights from themselves to the individual consumer.  Individuals like the researchers who made the documentary film Plasticized.  Individuals who take a science/art spin and try and re-jig human awareness such as Natalie Jeremijenko (click here to watch her presentation on “The Art of the eco-mindshift”).  Individuals who have founded organizations or just have countless blogs and twitter accounts.

How and why has the responsibility to clean up from a commercial venture devolved to the individual?

My thoughts were taken back to a few years ago when we lived in a house adjacent to a forest park in Queensland, Australia.  If you went through a gate in the back fence, you were in the forest.  After heavy rains, the dry watercourse turned into a torrential creek, or small river.  After one such downpour, a few days after the roar of the water subsided, we ventured down to the creek to investigate.  The flood had uncovered the spot where the residents from 50 years ago had disposed of their rubbish.  We found shards of old plates with designs from around the Post War period, parts from old automobiles, old enamel basins, and many glass bottles: medicine bottles, face cream jars, soft drink bottles, and whiskey bottles.  Some old depression glass also.

Some of the bottles were intact, but most were somehow broken with the sturdier portions weathered by the creek, and of great interest to us as a family for some reason.  We collected them all and went on little picnics with our friends to collect them in buckets, wash them nicely and arrange them.  We talked about them.

One ongoing family joke was that on so many of the old bottles, still clearly visible were the signs of everlasting stewardship and ownership.  So much of the glass fragments we found said things such as “THIS BOTTLE ALWAYS REMAINS THE PROPERTY OF JOHN WALKER & SONS LTD”.   We used to joke about it: “Always? Really? You still want it back? Even this piece?” and so on depending on the lightness of our mood.  It was a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.  I did some research today and it appears that those kind of bottles were produced in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Is it really true that Johnnie Walker still wants them back?

I looked today out of curiosity on a rum bottle from Bundaberg Rum that I found in a rubbish dump in Fiji that we use as a candle holder for any similar signs of ownership.  None.  Just “Established 1888”.  Obviously, the producers do not want it back.  Ownership of the bottle has passed to the consumer.

I checked on a sample of the hundreds of PET plastic bottles that I have amassed in our garage over the past two weeks from an area less than a city block.  No signs of ownership at all – blank.  The debate is raging in various parts of the world as to whether container deposit legislation is good for the environment.  In the Northern Territory in Australia, Coca Cola Amatil was originally successful in blocking the legislation, but the decision has since been overruled.  For updates on the subject see http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/Whatelsewesupport/why-do-we-need-a-container-deposit-legislation-.html

Fiji is also considering container deposit legislation.  This possibility is the reason Coca Cola Amatil Fiji gave me for not being able to provide any public place recycling bins (at all, anywhere).

Property of Coca Cola Bottling Company

Even Coca Cola has shrugged away from declaring ownership.  Coca Cola bottles used to be embossed with the words “Property of Coca Cola Bottling Company”, but no longer.  Therefore, cleaning up the bottles they produce now and that choke the environment is also a problem that they no longer wish to, or can be made to, take ownership of.  As the individual consumer is now understood (both implicitly and explicitly) to be the owner of the bottle, the individual is now shouldering responsibility of cleaning up the millions of bottles produced each year.  Individuals are normally powerless unless they are in a sphere of influence.  This seems to suit the manufacturers very well, as it is also relatively easy to stamp out fires of discontent regarding the environment that are individualized.  Thus the wish of individuals to motivate others towards collective activity.

Is this the reason why it is so difficult to motivate towards true Corporate Social Responsibility, and how the concept is now really just “Social Responsibility” that must be taken on by individuals who have formed social groups defined by interests and motivations?

Plasticized – from sushi fish to fish sushi

001.jpgI have often found myself wondering lately why and how my obsession with plastics, rubbish, recycling and the environment has grown since I have been in Fiji from a shaking of my head whilst on the bus, to a commitment to go alone collecting plastic bottles in the rain on Sunday afternoons at home to organising community clean ups to starting to write about it constantly, starting a facebook page CleanupFiji dedicated to it, thinking about it, dreaming about it.  Even my concept of what is plastic, what is rubbish, what is recycling, or recylable has changed.

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My husband on the beach at Namoimada, near Rakiraki, Fiji

Every day as the concept becomes clearer in my mind, it also becomes clear to me that the more I find out the less I really know.  My concept of how multinationals, plus individuals such as you and I not just contribute but CREATE the problem is morphing.  I used to think, what harm can it really do if I get my soy sauce in the little plastic sushi fish container that they give with every pack of sushi lunch?  I know that most people don’t recycle them, but maybe someday things will change.  I once asked last year at my local work place cafe how many sushi fish plastic soy sauce bottles they might use in a day.  The lady quickly told me that in one day, that small cafe would use about 8 big bags, which would be about 8,000 of them.  I started seeing them everywhere I looked.  Tip: with solid waste, the tip is to look DOWN a lot of the time.  Still, I didn’t do anything.  I started joking with my teenage and adult sons about making a little comic cartoon for youtube with the sushi fish that found its way to the plastic garbage island – maybe that would raise awareness.  I never did anything.  I always talked to my friends about how great it would be to go back to the days we remembered as kids where there were no supermarkets, and every corner had a local shop, a local butcher.  No need for mum to have a car, as we all walked to the shops on errands and brought our stuff back in paper bags or cold things wrapped in newspaper.  I never did anything.  I still used to 95% of the time drive my car to the local supermarket which was less than 500 meters away from my house.

I now live that kind of life here in Fiji in a way, where I have no car, I have to walk to the local shop, butter is still wrapped in paper, and on every corner there is someone selling fruit, vegetables or eggs, what went wrong?  Why is the picture I had in my mind about going back to community style life, and the real picture so jarringly wrong.  What has made me unsettled?  I have come to the conclusion that is is the plastic, plastic everywhere.  It doesn’t fit with the naive picture I had in my mind’s eye.

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One of my favourite photos, backflip, Levuka, Fiji

Not that I came to Fiji for a sea change.  I married a Fijian so this is where we moved to.  But, I have realised that the picture I had in my head of the type of life where people still know each other’s names and life is less focused on consumerism is a memory – a real memory – of what life was like when I was growing up in Brisbane.  There was very little plastic then.  The chemist still mixed the medicine in the apothecary, and put it into glass bottles and jars, the jams, drinks and all manner of other preserved foods still were in jars that you could re-use or return for a coin.  The cheeses, meats and small goods were still sold out of a display fridge at the local grocer, and wrapped in paper for you to take home.  Instead of everyone needing a car, if you had a big shop, the local grocer (who happened to be my dad) would deliver it to your house.  He was the only one who needed a car or van in the neighbourhood!  In fact, I went with dad as his “off-sider” so often and heard him call out “Rocer” as he approached the front door of our customers’ homes with a cardboard box with the order in it balanced on his shoulder that I thought his name was Rocer.  Actually, he was calling out “Grocer”, but never mind.  I can still see him in my mind’s eye as he did the rounds, me in tow.  He is even now a small but very strong man, with always a twinkle in his eye and a little joke for the ladies.  Life then was geared around walking.  The school rule was that if it was pouring with rain in the wet season, children were not to wear their shoes or sandals whilst walking to school as they would be ruined and would not last.  I remember feeling a real sense of sadness when my own kids were growing up and were in grade 1 and 2, that their school announced that all children must wear shoes at all times at school, even in the playground as otherwise they might get cut with broken glass.  A loss of innocence.

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Rubbish that will find its way to the sea, Fiji

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Old and new co-exist in Suva Harbour

Now, finally, being confronted with a beautiful community life, in a beautiful paradise – Fiji – I am finally motivated to do something.  Why, because the results of my previous life where I thought it didn’t matter if we bought things in plastic bottles and bags as long as we did the “right thing” with them, are here to haunt me.  Doing the “right thing” is relatively easy in a developed nation.  It is not easy or accessible here in a developing nation.  It is hard!  It is made hard!  Big plastic producers do not want to make it easy, why would they?  They have no need to worry as the world is full of picture postcard images of developing nations as beaches, coconut trees and smiling faces.  Yes, there are beaches, coconut trees, smiling faces, communities.  Yes, it is paradise.  Yes, I am very fortunate that I met and married my husband.  But, in this paradise, the excesses of the West, without the inbuilt controls are frighteningly real.  The perceived need for products and in particular products wrapped or bottled in plastic, is rampant.  The mechanism for getting rid of the plastics, close to non-existent, and a secret closely guarded and defended by two of the major players, Coca Cola Amatil Fiji, and Fiji Water.

I just spent a little while watching the feature length documentary called Plasticized.  If you have the time, it is worth a watch.  It is not hard going, but more an independent film about an ocean research journey on a yacht, with a little bag that trawls for nurdles.  One big take away from the film that I got which is timely – even plastic which is touted or promoted as “biodegradable” will only biodegrade in a properly managed land fill (which do not exist much in the developing world).  It will not biodegrade once it

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Lovers watch as a fridge bobs romantically in Suva Harbour

reaches the ocean, it will “photodegrade”.  This means that the sunlight will start to break the plastic down into smaller and smaller pieces until it is the size of plankton (and probably smaller).  From the most minute organism, to the filter feeding whales, this is their diet.  Plastic particles now outstrip plankton in the oceans by 6:1, they say.  Additionally, chemicals from industrial waste, oils and the like actually attach themselves to the plastic nurdles, which act as a sponge.  The jelly fish, crabs, fish and other marine animals ingest the plastic with their food, and with it the chemicals.  The effect of the chemicals and plastics biomagnifies up the food chain, until we eat it.  To view the film click here.

Next, I will announce the cartoon youtube challenge to make a video about a sushi fish who found his way to the plastic islands in the oceans…. stay tuned.  Actually, the sushi fish (soy sauce bottle), once reaching the ocean, will eventually photodegrade and become part of your sushi fish (lunch).

The film maker joined the crew on the small boat and sailed, collecting data all the way to, and into the great pacific garbage patch.  He did not get the chance, as he wished, to swim through bobbing waves of intact plastic bottles and computer screens, even though some of those were still intact. More that the ocean is actually a thick soup of suspended plastic.

In the film, one person commented, “To make something that is meant to be used for a minute, but lasts for a lifetime, is actually evil”.  It made me think about how many times I just used things for a minute, and then had to dispose of them.  Even here, I still do, but a lot less than I used to, as here in Fiji, I have to actually THINK, how I am going to dispose of it.  It doesn’t automatically happen like it seemed to back home.  I have to actually engage in the process.

Seaweed House – what an idea!

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Our old house in Koronivia, made of corrugated iron.

Here’s a thought!  Amazing what you stumble upon – apparently seaweed houses have been a traditional method of construction on some island communities.  A modern take on it is on Dornob.  Click here for more information.  Pictures of the seaweed house at the bottom of this post.

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Typical house in Savusavu, Fiji

Informal settlement in Fiji. Muanivatu, Central Suva.
Source: http://www.informalism.net

So many ideas for building in Fiji where timber is expensive.  Funnily enough though, mahogany or mangrove wood is used for firewood here, and the sawdust from the mahogany is sold for $2 FJD per bag to use in chicken houses or on the garden.  Banana crates are made from mahogany, but most Fijian homes are made of either concrete or corrugated iron.  So many of the homes even in coastal villages are corrugated iron loosely cobbled together.  So many (between 100,000 and 300,000) people in Fiji live in informal settlements or shanty towns. http://www.informalism.net/2010/04/asian-coaltion-for-housing-rights-in.html

Seaweed is apparently fire resistant and insulating, and also readily available in Fiji.

Modern Seaweed House 2

Source: Dornob

Suva Clean Air Forum – Participate

IMGP7486Do you want to participate and enable a study on the air quality in the Suva area?  If you have visited, or live in Suva, please have your say.  The chief investigator of thestudy apparently is having trouble convincing her counterparts at a University in Australia that there could possibly be an issue with air pollution in Suva and needs “proof”.

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Burning dump from the local shop at Koronivia, near Suva. The smoke extended for about a kilometer.

If you are concerned about the emissions from vehicles, the thick diesel fumes at the bus stand, the black coating all over the buildings and foot paths, the smoke from burning household waste, or burning community rubbish dumps, then please participate.

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Traffic on the Kings Road Highway on the way to Suva airport

To participate you can either

Log into the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SuvaCleanAirForum,

or

Complete the quick online survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SuvaAir

Results will be published on the Facebook page.

Wasteaid – a new organization

I stumbled across a new organization called Wasteaid.  It looks like something keeping an eye on.  I have copied some information below on what they do. Their website is at wasteaid.ca

What we are

WasteAid aims to become a major international charity providing impoverished communities with expertise,support,projects,resources and training in the management of solid wastes and their associated impacts.

What we are trying to do

  • Training and Capacity Building – in all aspects of wastes management
  • Economic – waste as a business for local communities
  • Social – eco-justice, advocacy, education and awareness, health, safety and support
  • Environmental – remediation and protection
  • Industry Engagement – connecting the global waste industry to the development community

Who we are

We are an increasing number of waste, environmental, aid and development professionals and concerned individuals, organisations and businesses that want to put waste around the world right and specifically want to help the particularly poor and vulnerable communities, where ever they are, from Africa, the arctic north of Canada, to the poor and impoverished parts of our increasingly large cities, take some of the strain in dealing with the impacts associated with the poor management of solid wastes

Rural Fiji – labour of love

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Sunrise over Koronivia

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Sunrise Koronivia

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Harvesting rice

Sometimes I know that I may sound negative with some of the posts I put up, complaining about or documenting rubbish and PET bottles, burning plastic fires and so on.

Part of the reason I am so saddened by it all, is that I love Fiji so much.  I have really come to love rural life – I never thought I would.  I am a beach girl by nature – the thought of not being able to access the ocean normally terrifies me – really.  I remember years ago, I had the opportunity to move to Botswana.  I am ashamed to admit that the reason that I held in my

“secret heart” and not one of the many reasons I ever voiced, was that I could not do it, as after looking on the map, I realized that Botswana was landlocked!

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Rice harvesting, Fiji

Fiji is a nation of islands,

hundreds and hundreds of islands – and I live on the largest one.  I am not that far from the sea really, and see it every time I take the bus to Suva but no one really swims in the sea here.  If they do, they often swim fully clothed for modesty and cultural reasons, and there are no surf beaches on this side of the island at all (or in fact any place in Fiji that I have been to).  Note to self – must visit surf side sometime.  Even though we live on an island (a big one), we live in a rural setting.  I have once seen some people swimming in Suva near the bowling club, which was wierd.  The water is so filthy that the sand is black and the water is often blackish grey also.  There were rusty cans and

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Rice paddy, Fiji

plastic bottles everywhere, but a mother watched as her two young kids had a ball in the water.  The water in Suva Harbour is so contaminated, and it is widely documented and known, but many people here don’t read the paper, so I guess how are they to know.  I have also seen people daily catching fish in Nubukalou Creek in Suva and in the Harbour.  Maybe they are not aware?

toxic creek

 

Of particular concern is Nubukalou Creek which drains a major area of the city that is without sewerage. The National State of the Environment Report states that “with faecal coliform levels thousands of times above an acceptable level it should be regarded as a sewer. The continued sale of fish along the creek bank, with the consequent use of its water for washing them, is a serious health hazard.” Source: http://www.unescap.org/drpad/publication/integra/volume2/fiji/2fj02c03.htm

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Cattle, Fiji

Anyway, enough about Suva…..What has made me love it here in Rural Fiji so much I often ask myself?  Is it the sunrise over the coconut trees – some days red, some days golden?  Is it the sight of a hawk flying low (a sign that bad weather is coming)?  To me, when I think of Fiji, I don’t think about beaches at all, I think of the country side.  I think of the beautiful rural places and people.  Most of Fiji is rural and people live off the land.

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Mother and son take a walk in the morning mist

Is it the peace and quiet? Is it that every where you look it is green and whatever you put in the ground grows like wildfire?

It is all of those things, but mainly it is the people.  Life here has a different pace.  A friend of a friend is here in Fiji for a week at the moment and she has kindly brought some donations from home.  I am so looking forward to meeting her, and will travel by bus tomorrow to the Coral Coast to collect the donations, and have a conversation.  A week goes so fast here, not because you fit a million things in, like in the developed world, but because you don’t!  I started wondering how I would ever find the time meet with them, and that if I don’t do it tomorrow, soon the week will be gone, and so will they.

The pace of life is often determined by the task at hand, and the tools available.  My task right now is to write this blog – I have a working computer in my home – not many people

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Farm Road Fiji

here have that.  I have a working internet connection – also not common.  Once I hit publish, the job is done, and all my typos and immature thoughts will be out there for the world to see.

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Grey herons stalk the rice paddies waiting for fingerlings

Here, much is done by hand.  Many hands, over long hours.  Yesterday, I needed some milk powder, so I took a walk down the farm road about a kilometer to my friend Sanila who owns a small shop in Koronivia.  I could have gone by bus to the nearest supermarket which would have taken about 10 minutes, but I felt like a chat and seeing a friendly face.  So, I got my cloth shopping bag (also an oddity here as this is still plastic world where service means double bagging!) and my camera and took a walk.  On the way, in the field, some men were harvesting rice from a research paddock.  They were doing it all by hand.  Cutting each bundle, walking it over to a pile, and then the piles would eventually be put into a tiny threshing machine and then the rice bagged into 50kg bags.  After that, the rice straw will then be carried to a big pile.  Sometimes we use the rice straw on the garden and it is a great weed mat.

I stopped for a chat and asked if I could take their photo for my website.  They happily agreed, posed, and then went on with their work – all day. Each of the men probably earned between $10 and $20 for the day’s work.  That is not much, but bread is 75 cents a loaf so the money they made (less their bus fare) will pay for the family meal.

A lot of work here is manual, and people still have time for a chat.  Even though I sometimes get lonely, I am never really alone as everyone I meet is keen to talk, and share and find out about each other.

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Working bullocks, Fiji

Ploughing is often done by a team or working bullocks, or a horse.  Cassava, dalo, corn, ochra (bindi), bele, bananas, coconuts, limes, everything seems to be harvested by hand.  Milking is often also still done by hand.  And all these tasks are seemingly, to my western eyes, done with pride, love, laughter and happiness, and always in groups.

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Teenagers enjoy juice after working together clearing our yard

It is the love, laughter, togetherness and conversation that has made me love rural Fiji.  Everyone asks us to come to the village for holidays, and they mean it.

There is a calmness to Fiji rural life that I find comforting.

How to make a solar garden flower light from recycled PET bottles – take two

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Solar flower light emits a soft glow through the PET flowers at night

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Pretty and chirpy during the day in the sun

Well, so many people have been searching my site for the real “how to” instructions for making a flower out of PET bottles, and my last post didn’t really do full justice to the process, so I have made amends below.  This is attempt number two.  For attempt number one (fluro light cover) see here.

Attempt number two is a solar flower light that I have hanging in the garden.IMGP7675

Wash PET bottles

Cut in half with stanley knife – I found it easy to just make a small cut with the knife then cut the rest with scissors

IMGP7625Cut both the tops and the bottom halves into strips with scissors

Fold the petals back and kind of crunch them up so that they look like IMGP7630flowers

keep any small snipped out bits for the centre of the flowers

spray paint everything in a few coloursIMGP7619

IMGP7622poke a couple of holes in the bottom of each of your new flowers to thread wire through

poke holes in the centre bits also – I used a soldering iron for thisIMGP7621

IMGP7672thread wire through the flowers, attaching a centre bit or stamen as needed

use the wire to attach to an old piece of chicken wire or fly screen

IMGP7628once you have all the flowers attached to the fly screen, make into  circle and secureIMGP7669

then use wire and hang some flowers artistically from the bottom

use curtain ring to make a hanger for the light

I used a small solar bulb made by Nokero (short for No Kerosene) and used another curtain ring to hang it inside the middle of the light

If I had access to solar fairy lights here in Fiji, that would be my first preference.IMGP7679

it really looks beautiful at night, and because I used bright colours, it is also pretty during the day

it took me a morning to figure it out but I am glad I did it.  It is one small step to making some use of the bottles that are everywhere here in Fiji, and IMGP7683a small step to getting them out of the environment!  The thing is, PET bottles can be recycled, but you have to actually send them to recycling for that to work.

As Mother Teresa once said, “to keep a lamp burning, you have to put oil in it”

IMGP7666IMGP7667TIP FOR NEW PLAYERS:  I did think it would look pretty with some fairy lights hanging in it, but even though the fairy lights have the wires insulated, when I turned it on, it did look beautiful, but as I made the frame out of metal fly wire, when I touched it, it gave me a shock, so then I went to the solar version.

Levuka Town – Fiji’s First World Heritage Site

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Levuka, the old Capital of Fiji, on Ovalau Island, is now Fiji’s first UNESCO World Heritage Listed site.  Going to Levuka is a step back in time, in the most charming way.  It is wonderful that the town is now going to be preserved.

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1399

If you love Levuka, and want to find out more about how to recycle PET bottles and aluminum cans, then please contact me.  I visited Levuka a few months ago, and will be returning soon.  For photos of Levuka see my previous post at

The sitting room of the Royal Hotel, Levuka, built in the 1860's.

The sitting room of the Royal Hotel, Levuka, built in the 1860’s.

https://alicevstokes.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/levuka-the-old-capital-of-fiji/

I hear that many initiatives are in train, and now, perhaps, lots of people will visit Levuka.  When they do come, it will be imperative that recycling is in place.

44 million a year in Fiji – PET bottles are recyclable – but only if people recycle them!

I am doing some research on Fiji Water, and American owned brand, operating in Fiji.

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Fiji Water bottle floats in Suva

A bit of history here.  http://superculturereport.wordpress.com/fiji-water/

Some reports state that more than half of Fijians do not have access to clean drinking water.  There is so much information (not much of it very encouraging).  Fiji Water extracts at least 3.5million liters of water a month from its source in Fiji (only companies that extract that volume are subject to the tax introduced in 2010 which caused Fiji Water to close its plant for a day before reopening the next morning), with over 95% of it apparently being exported to its major markets USA and Australia.   Plastic “blanks” or pellets are imported to Fiji, and then filled at the plant using blow fill technology.  The only commitment that Fiji Water has to recycling here in Fiji that I have found is this:

Coca Cola Amatil Fiji will supply (if asked) large bags that hold approximately 60kg of recyclable plastic bottles.  Once the bags are filled, you can call them and they will collect the bags and pay 75 Fijian Cents per kg for the plastic.  They will take all their own brands (which are numerous) plus Fiji Water bottles.   To get the bags delivered to any rural communities or any of the islands (110 of Fiji’s 332 islands are inhabited), is not easy.  I suggested to Coca Cola Amatil that they could simply drop off the bags with the regular delivery of their product (the Coca Cola trucks also apparently deliver the Fiji Water to the resorts and other outlets), but they do not want to do that as they claim that people put “all kinds of rubbish” in the bags such as “dead dogs”.

There are no public place recycling bins that I have seen, and no regular collection of recycling.  PET bottles are everywhere in open dumps and on the roadside, creeks, rivers and farms.  Many communities do not have any kind of garbage collection at all.

Fiji Water told me that they have a joint initiative with Coca Cola to recycle in Fiji.  If the above is it, then it is not adequate.  As there is no formal recycling program in Fiji, most plastics and PET bottles end up either burned, or in landfill.  The dumps in Fiji are mostly near the mangroves and a cause of great concern to local authorities here.

Pictures and images of part of the problem here.

Hazardous Waste in the Pacific http://www.alphabetics.info/international/2013/03/18/hazardous-waste-in-the-pacific-islands/

The Department of Environment reported:

Fiji like all other Small Island Developing States in the Pacific region recognizes that waste management is the single most pressing issue that needs immediate action. It is recognized as a major concern with the potential to cause negative impacts on our national development activities including public health, the environment, food security, tourism and trade.

Solid Waste at the moment is either being thrown in the open dumpsites, illegally disposed of in the sea or on unused land, in the streets or being burnt in piles in the backyard. Burning of municipal waste is also quite common despite and towns and cities have been continuously exposed to destructive effects such as carcinogenic toxins from burning and impacts of poor waste management.

Plastic Bags

The growing number of plastic bags is one of the major environmental pollutants and of key concern in Fiji, as it takes longer time to degrade. Plastic pollution is quite common in public areas. In 1994 SPREP carried out a waste audit with 5 households in Suva for a week and found 7% of the waste was made up of plastics.

PET Bottles

In the year 2003 from January to December, the total influx of PET bottles in Fiji was recorded around 44 million which includes 1.7 million of imports and 42 million PET bottles being produced locally. (Note that the production 5 (sic) of PET bottles serves to mean the bottles that are blown up locally using imported pellets).

Industrial or Trade Wastes

Considerable amounts of solid wastes are produced by industries and disposed of at municipal dumps.

Source: http://www.uncrd.or.jp/env/3r_02/presentations/BG4/4-1FijiCountryReportKL.pdf

How to make a light of flowers from recycled PET plastic bottles

 

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Light cover made from recycled PET plastic bottles

Once again, I decided I had better stop talking, and start doing.  We have collected so many bottles at our place as we investigate options for recycling the 44 million PET bottles that are sold in Fiji each year. On the weekend, we made a cover for the outdoor fluorescent light out of recycled PET plastic bottles.

I had seen something similar on the internet, and decided to give it a try, as often these crafty ideas are not as easy as they appear, but this one was!

Here is what we did:

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Fixture attached to ceiling

My friend Vuli came for a visit with two of her grandkids.  It was her and I, plus 4 little boys as “helpers”, plus I had two boys with me.  I was going to take photos of the process, but we got caught up trying to mind 4 boys with a soldering iron and stanley knives, so you get the picture.

I can make an instructional set of pictures if anyone is interested.  The whole thing took about 2 hours in between making snacks for the kids and being a gopher for my husband while he and his father were doing some yard work, and Vuli and I secretly believe that we would have done it faster, and with a bit more of a polished result had we been “alone”.  It was so fun though and the kids had a ball, plus do they really want long lectures on recycling, or just a taste of the action?

Materials:

1 piece of chicken wire or other mesh as big as you need to hang below your fluorescent light (ours was about 25cm by 85cm)

  • 12 or 14 plastic PET bottles any size
  • scissors
  • stanley knifeIMGP7610
  • spray paint
  • old wire (we used an old piece of electrical wire and pulled it apart)
  • a couple of curtain rings if you are fancy
  • a couple of screw in eyelets if you want to permanently attach it
  • soldering iron or other hot poker type device to poke holes in the flowers to thread the wire through

Method

  1. wash the bottles
  2. cut the bottles in half around the middle.  We used the stanley knife just to make the first incision, and then used the scissors to cut around
  3. use the scissors and cut lots of little strips into the bottles to form the petals

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    With the light on

  4. you can use a butter knife and pull the strips similar to the way you use curling ribbon, but we found the simplest thing for the kids was just to bend the petals back and kind of fold them for some kinks
  5. you can put two pieces one inside the other if you want a fuller flower, or just use one
  6. put on newspaper or an old mat and use any colours of spray paint to lightly spray each flower (we had black, gold and red)
  7. use the soldering iron or a heated up skewer to poke a hole in the base of each flower
  8. thread a piece of wire through the hole (or fishing line might be good)
  9. attach the wire to the chicken wire frame
  10. use one longer piece of wire at each end to make it hang, and put curtain ring on each so that you can hang up
  11. use two screw islets to hang from ceiling, or we just threaded some wire through the verandah.
  12. anyway, it looks really nice, and even the men like it.  It gives the fluro light a softer glow somehow

 

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Daytime view with light off

Coming to Fiji and making a difference – radio interview and what you can do

Last Friday, I had the wonderful opportunity to be interviewed on Australian Radio 4BC Brisbane by Catherine McGeorge and Chris Adams.  Catherine spent time yachting around the Pacific, and witnessed some of the pollution that is also threatening Fiji in the next 20 years if we don’t think about what to do with our plastics.  We can all help to reverse the trend.  The mp3 file of the interview is available at

What, you may ask, can I do if I don’t live in Fiji?  There are so many things we can do if we have a spare day.

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Boys on the ferry from Suva to Savusavu

When you fly in to Fiji – ask your airline what they do with the plastic bottles they use in-flight, and let me know.

When you stay at a hotel or resort, ask them for some garbage bags for when you go walk-about, so that you can collect some plastic bottles and take them back to the hotel for recycling.

When you come to Fiji, you can spend a day replanting coral on the reef (coral planting material available, or I can hook you up if you are not sure where to start).

Spend half a day replanting mangrove seedlings (again, readily available and I can hook you up, as many of the resorts have their own marine biologists).

Volunteer a day or so to go to the local primary school and do a bit of a spruce up or some gardening – you will be welcomed with open arms  – or…. I can hook you up.

Let me know when you are coming to Fiji and do a village stay and volunteer a bit while you are here and having fun – you can stay in the village or just go for a visit, and your only costs will be your air travel.  Ask me and I can arrange it all – pitch in a bit like in a normal family, and bring a few pairs of thongs or flip flops, some fishing line and hooks and some rugby balls and ball pumps and your stay is covered!  maybe some solar garden lights and you will be remembered for ever!

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Dom and Savenaca scrape coconuts to make fresh coconut milk (lolo)

You will learn to fish, cook Fijian food, drink yaqona (Kava), make fresh coconut milk, cook a lovo (like a hungi), weave coconut baskets, and voivoi mats, and become part of a new family.

Suva’s Iconic Past being restored – but what about the rubbish?

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The old Grand Pacific Hotel, opposite Albert Park and the Government Buildings, now undergoing restoration, and due to re-open in 2014.

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Lovers look on as a fridge bobs in Suva Harbour in downtown Suva

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Daily view of rubbish on the beach in Downtown Suva

 

Recently there was an article in the newspaper here in Fiji about a wonderful project to restore the old iconic buildings and gardens in Downtown Suva (for online copy of the article by Graham Davis, click here).  This is a great project, but my concern is – once the work is done, and locals and tourists come to the area, if they look up they will see the beauty of “Old Suva”, currently a faded beauty, and the glory of Suva Harbour, if they look down, they will see hundreds of polystyrene lunch containers that say “Bula” (which means Hello or Welcome) or “Fiji”, co-mingled with plastic drink bottles, aluminum cans, tyres, backpacks and allmanner of other rubbish all along the beach and the sea wall promenade.  Recently I saw a fridge floating about two meters from shore in Suva Harbour outside the Fish Market.  One idea in my response below:

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Polystyrene lunch container “Bula” floats in Suva Harbour outside the Suva City Council Offices

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The Peace Park on Suva Harbour

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Disused fountain in Thurston Gardens, near the Fiji Museum

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The sea wall promenade near the Suva City Council Offices, with a seaplane parked at the Holiday Inn, and the old Grand Pacific Hotel in the background.

I read your article with interest in the paper recently. While it is wonderful news that there are moves to restore the Government Buildings, the old Grand Pacific Hotel and the strip along the sea wall, I wonder if any of the supporters of this project have recently taken a walk along the sea wall? I do not have a car here in Fiji, so I walk or ride the bus. From that vantage point, on any and every day of the week, you can see recyclables, and rubbish by the tonne along the walkway and small beaches that dot the sea wall. Notably, it seems that the majority of garbage dumped on the nature strips and beaches seems to be outside where the Government employees take their lunch. If you look at the beach outside FIRCA, the beach outside the Suva City Council Buildings, and the beach outside the Government Office Tower, you will see the remnants of daily lunches. It is a strange twist of fate that many of the polystyrene “lunch packs” that are used at almost every take away shop say “Bula” or “Fiji”. This is quite embarrassing really. There are also no recycling bins at all that I have seen either along the sea wall, or in Suva City, or anywhere else. Recycling bins must be a priority for those in authority, as there are approximately 44 million PET plastic drink bottles in Fiji every year (that figure though was from 2003). What use the mantra of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle if there are no public place recycling bins. Coca Cola Amatil and Fiji Water have a joint program where they will collect the bottles and pay per kilogram, plus all aluminum cans. Surely Suva City Council could arrange this, and if they need assistance, I am happy to facilitate.
Could part of the cause of the problem be that much of the recyclables and garbage is not visible if traveling by car, and that many in authority have a driver and a vehicle?
Part of the solution could be a “plain clothes Friday” for all government and council administrative staff – a lunch time barbeque could be provided on the beach, and a weekly show of civic duty to pick up one’s own lunch rubbish could be exhibited. Recently we did a

clean up on a 5km stretch of a rural dirt road in Koronivia, and collected more than 1,200 bags of rubbish and recycling.
Cleaning up sporadically is not a solution, and too often every article in the paper about clean ups mentions this or that community group, but does not mention or tally WHAT was collected. Once we learn that the rubbish needs to be tallied,and the results published, then maybe we

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Thurston Gardens, Suva

will get some action. Fiji is abundant in beauty and resources, and could be a leader in the Pacific if we learn how to deal with recycling, and fast!
Recycling bins can even be made from the plastic bottles, so very little expenditure is needed. I am being contacted by communities across Fiji who want to recycle, and just need someone to help them to get it organized. If you or your readers wish to be involved, please feel free to contact me.

Sustainable Tourism Hotels, Resorts, Checklists, Information, and composting toilets for Fiji

In doing some research for a friend, I came upon this checklist for sustainable tourism and hotels in Fiji.  http://marineecologyfiji.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Fiji-Checklist-Sustainable-Tourism-Devlopment.pdf

Also, a link for composting toilets project here in Fiji from Holly Gittlein (Metal artist!) – click here

Best Practices – Green Hotels information – click here

Some Hotels and Resorts with Sustainability Strategies in Fiji

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Savusavu

  • Sustainability at Manta Ray Island Resort click here
  • Integrated Coastal Zone Management strategy and publications click here
  • Composting on Oneta Resort, Kadavu, Fiji click here
  • Turtle Island, Environment and Sustainability, 100% solar click here
  • Barefoot Island Low Impact Policy click here

Want to see your favourite holiday place here, contact me

Calling Fiji – Environment wake up call on the radio

Update: for all who missed it, here is the link to the radio interview of 19th July on 4BC Brisbane Radio.  mp3 https://alicevstokes.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/alice-tamani.mp3

I have plans, grand plans!  I am doing a slow reveal of the wonderful things happening here in Fiji and abroad in the movement to restore Fiji to a pristine paradise, as while I am working, the support from others is taking shape, and ideas are being added and refined in this new grouping.

IMGP5651People from island communities in Fiji have started to contact me regarding organising recycling on the islands.  I was contacted for local insights by a BBC TV producer, and tomorrow I have the wonderful opportunity to be interviewed on Australian Radio 4BC Brisbane by Catherine McGeorge.  Catherine spent time yachting around the Pacific, and witnessed some of the pollution and changes to this wonderful place that I am now seeing.  The live feed is available at http://www.4bc.com.au/afternoons the Moyd and Loretta Show.  The interview is scheduled for 2.05pm Brisbane time, and 4.05pm Fiji Time.

Background: Since I came to Fiji for the first time in February last year, I was struck by how little it resembles the travel brochures, and the ads on TV.  In fact, it is nothing like that.  The resorts are an anomaly, a little microcosm of their own, cloistered away, and often on islands of their own, or walled completely.  On the island of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji, which has the international airport at Nadi, and the present day capital, Suva, the resorts are enclosed by high walls and lush gardens, and just outside, or across the road is the “village”.  The village is often no longer the quaint romantic picture postcard we have in our minds while sipping Fiji Water, or trawling through the internet looking for the best flight deals.

roni and alice

My husband and I in Brisbane

Very few Fijian villages still have the traditional bures (huts with thatched roofs).  The bures have been replaced by concrete block or corrugated iron houses, with corrugated iron roofs.  Perhaps they are judged more cyclone proof.  Perhaps a lot of the old skills are dying out.  Perhaps, as one Fijian man suggested to me, the missionary culture that helped to shape the modern Fiji imposed the idea that God’s house is made of concrete with an iron roof – to be closer to God, the idea that one’s own home should be modelled on the European style “church” building took hold.

Perhaps it is just a sign of modernization or becoming “developed” as Fiji identifies itself as a Developing Nation and one of the SIDS (Small Island Developing States).

Another by-product of “developing” is apparent in the enormous amount of plastic and other rubbish, including recyclables that are thrown anyhow, anywhere, everywhere.  I started thinking about the cause.  At first I was angry, and then disappointed, then disbelief set in, then denial, sadness, anger again, and so on.  It occurred to me that my emotions resembled the famed “7 stages of grief” and I realised that most of all it saddened me.

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Roni getting his shoes shined in Suva

I am married to a Fijian national, and love my life here, with all its ups and downs.  Life is physical, I feel younger, and even though I miss my friends from home, I have come to think of Fiji as Home now.  Home is where the heart is I guess.

I started to think of a solution.  It is mind boggling as the problem is endemic, and systemic.  The system just can’t cope with the amount of rubbish there is (44 million PET bottles in Fiji in the year 2003 – the mind boggles!), and there is no plan.  There are initiatives such as the 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recyle), but no community education or strategy to actually implement any of the initiatives.

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Roni on our honeymoon in Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji

So, first I just started cleaning up my own street.  I went out in the afternoons, rain, pouring rain, torrential rain or blistering heat (the only weather there seems to be) and started picking up rubbish out of the 2 feet wide, 2 feet deep open drains that run on both sides of the street.  These drains take all waste water from the homes, except for sewage which goes into septic tanks.  All of the drains were full of plastic bottles, broken thongs (flip-flops) and coconuts.  Regularly I would pick up so much rubbish in 50kg bags that I couldn’t drag it home, and had to get a taxi home with it.  Once I got it home, there was nothing to do with it.  That is why most Fijians either throw it in the drain, or burn it, or bury it.

I started to become a bit of an oddity in the neighbourhood.  Then I organised a clean up day on the street – 300 volunteers collected 10 tonnes of rubbish on a 5km stretch of dirt road!

I also started a blog for the sake of my friends and family as I can’t often send photos by email.  The blog started to get a readership of like minded folks from most places in the world.  I started a facebook page www.facebook.com/cleanupfijiprotectingparadise at the suggestion of a reader, then a twitter account @cleanupfiji.

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Roni at the hot springs, Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji

You have borne witness to my private thoughts, blasted out over the internet, and if you want, you can also hear my views on radio tomorrow.  I would love your support.  Fiji has a way of life and an abundance of natural beauty and resources that can’t be matched.  If we all do the little bit that we can, we can achieve great things I am sure!  Someone once said, “Boldness has a genius to it.”  Another person said, “If I can so something and I do nothing, I have failed”.  Personally, I know that what I am doing may amount to not much, but if I do nothing, I will certainly die with regret.  If I do what I can do, I have the opportunity to make a difference in developing island nation that I now call “Home”.  If you do whatever you can do to help, you also have that opportunity, no matter where you are.

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Saris on the washing line, Savusavu

It could be volunteering to do a few days’ repainting a village school, or a day replanting coral or mangroves, or just picking up some garbage around the hotel or on the resort beach while you are here.  It could be helping to fund what we need to do, or helping with research and contacts at your home location for where Fiji can send their recyclables for the highest price.  Now, we need a way to fund this project.  Even sending clothes and unwanted things from home with the next visitor can help.  These items can be either donated to those in need, or sold to raise funds.

I look forward to working with you all, and to your input and ideas.  Thank you for your support so far, and thank you in advance for what you are going to do.

Do you wanna dance, and hold my hand? Problems and issues facing ordinary Fijians

Including new travel tips!!!!

Yesterday, I got an email from a producer of a BBC Television show asking for some comments as she is looking at making a show about crazy places to drive a taxi.  In doing a response for her, I have included information that gives a picture (through my eyes as an Australian married to a Fijian, living here in Fiji) of what life in Fiji is like – really like!  So, if you wanna dance, and hold my hand and take a trip through Fijian life as I observe it, read on.  I have not mentioned the upcoming election in 2014, or any political views, but I can tell you that living in Fiji to me feels safe, secure.  Like the current government or not, most Fijians I speak to feel that at least the current Prime Minister is a man who gets around to local communities and gets things done.  Anyway, no more on politics.  My response to the enquiries below:

Thanks so much for your email.  I know heaps of taxi drivers as apart from the bus, it is my only mode of transport.  As far as I am aware, there are no “water taxis” as such.  When people need to travel over water, apart from the big barges and ferries operated by Patterson Brothers Shipping, Bligh Shipping and Groundar, they travel mostly by fibreglass boat such as in this story.  Often the boats are bought using microfinance or loans for thousands, and the fare is about $5, so I don’t know how they actually pay off the loans. http://www.fijisun.com.fj/2013/05/03/a-boat-for-yanuca-islanders/

For a list of shipping contacts see here: http://myfijiguide.com/general-info/boatsmarineshipping/shipping-companies-and-agents.aspx

Even from one point to another on the same island, it is easier and faster to get the boat.

Many people die each year in the small “fibres” as they are called.  http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=238916 including the late Tui (chief) Macuata.  There is a post in my blog about it.

Even government travel is by these small boats sometimes, such as teaching staff going between the islands.  http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=235708

If you wanted to put your man on the water, I would suggest that you do it in the Lomaiviti Group, that is the group of islands including Ovalau(where Levuka is, the old capital), Gau, Kadauv etc .  Actually here is a list of the islands.

There is plenty of boat travel between all of the islands in the group.  Including sea-road travel. for example, a truck wanting to take goods to Koro Island from Suva would have to travel by road to Natovi Landing near Nausori (Rewa Delta), then the truck goes on the boat to the island, then travels overland to destination.

Re normal taxi drivers, the cars are often old, the fare is usually about $3 for short trips, and they have to go on all kinds of roads.  Some travel regularly on the road from Suva to Nadi for $100 FJD.  The scary way to travel is by minibus.  There are minibus routes all over Fiji and the drivers drive non stop in all conditions, with vans jam packed full.

IMGP6677Later that night, further into the conversation, on being thanked for my prompt response (excuse my generalisation, not all Fijians drink Kava, and not all the time, but it is as expected at work here as late night Karaoke and drinking are in Japan.  If the boss says drink, you drink.  If you don’t you are seen as not loyal.  Also, due to the nature of family and clan ties, often there is a traditional relationship involved and to not drink would be considered socially unacceptable, disrespectful and frankly UnFijian:

Ahh, see I am married to a Fijian.  They all drink Kava, all the time.  It is midnight here and I am waiting for him to get home from the “meeting”.  By the way, I also should have mentioned that all the taxi drivers drink kava all the time also, even between jobs, or while waiting at their taxi base.  Especially if they have to go on a long job and take someone to the interior, they will be given Kava when they arrive.  It is not just a quick “one for the road” affair either! 

I do know someone here in Rewa who would be a great person.  His name is Jerry, and he is Fijian and owns traditional land, and drives the other kind of taxi which is a huge truck converted into a carrier with bench seats.  He does daily runs from Nausori to Logani and the other villages towards Bau Landing, which has probably some of the worst roads in Fiji.  Drivers here are very skillful, and he and his family are real characters.  His son is a great friend of mine.  They will take your man in like he is one of the family, and after work he will get to tend to cattle, plant dalo and ride horses in the sea.

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Our sleeping arrangements on the inter island ferry

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Just one small part of our family

Earlier today:

Hi, I am going to try and answer your questions below, I hope this helps you:

Oh by the way… Even if these boats you mention below are not ‘water taxis’ as such – do locals pay a fare? I love the suggestion about the trucks. As a local what do you think are the main ‘current affairs’ affecting Fijians and people like Jerry?

Yes, the locals pay a fare.  They also often pay with their lives.  A fibreglass is an open small boat as pictured in  https://alicevstokes.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/suva-harbour/.  They take officially 7 to 9 passengers across the reef, or if travelling from island to island, over open water.  The weather here is very changeable and the sea often treacherous.  Very few wear life jackets.  The inter-island fare is normally the cost of a weeks’ earnings for some people.  For example, from Levuka on Ovalau to Gau island, the fare is about $70.  Many Fijians earn $10/day.  However, if you “gotta go” then there is little option.  Because of strong traditional relationships, if there is a family event such as funeral etc, then you must travel.  Fijians (even Indo-Fijians) are very much tied to 3 places in this order: their mother’s village, their father’s village, their birth place.  Where they actually live or “stay” as they call it (for example if they have moved to Suva for work) is of little or no consequence.  I think that is one of the reasons there is so much litter here.  It is not your concern as it is not your village. 

For all Fijians that I know and have met, the family and family ties are the most important thing.  That is one of the most wonderful things about living in Fiji.  No matter the problems, family time (even with husband and wife, kids etc) is the number one priority.  Respect for your parents, and elders is paramount.  For example, my niece just had a baby.  Instead of being called the baby’s aunt, I am called the . grandmother or “Bubu” as I am in that generation (even though of course I am still wildly attractive and only 48) and all of my counterparts are considered as important to the baby, and a source of advice for the new mother.  The baby is named after its great grandfather (my husband’s father), my son – no blood relation, and the biological grandmother’s late father.  This is a huge honour to have a “yaca” (yatha).  Even as I write this, I feel an obligation to further explain the family relationships, as it matters so much (for example, that the baby’s mother is the first daughter of my husband’s eldest brother, and that the father of that eldest brother is the first namesake), but I won’t…. but you get the idea. 

The reason I am going into all this, is that for any taxi driver, boat driver, carrier driver, bus driver or whatever, family is the real driver.

Religion is the second driver.  God is real here, and your parents are viewed as God’s representative on earth. 

Even though wages and fares are low, the sense of community here is very strong.  If you ring a driver or get a driver and explain that you don’t have any money but your need to travel to a place for reasons of family, getting home or a commitment that is important (again, only family or religion), then they will take you on a promise.  Often I get home having not paid anything at all, not because I don’t have any money, just because one of my neighbours (anyone living within a 5km radius) or relatives (anyone from Gau or the Lomaiviti group, or Vanua Levu) has seen me and picked me up.

Taxi drivers here are the people you go to if you want or need to find anything.  They take a real sense of responsibility for making sure you get what you need.  They will go  into the shop with you and explain what you need, and negotiate.  They are friends with every one.  They are a very trusted group in the community and often have regular customers and jobs.  When I say customers, actually your taxi driver becomes part of the family.  They pick your kids up and take them to school, they tell people where you live, they help you move house, they make enquiries if you are searching for a house to rent or a car to buy.  They do everything for you.  I published some taxi driver phone numbers on my blog as these people I really trust.  They invite you to their daughters’ weddings, they are a blessing.

·         Who are Jerry’s (Or someone like him) customers – how reliant are people on taxis?

Jerry and the other drivers rely on their regular customers as much as their customers rely on them.  They do deliveries, make sure that all the kids are picked up, run rain, flood, hail or shine, as it is the only way for people to get home.  I came to Fiji in December the day after a cyclone and our road was flooded. Our driver somehow found a way through the flooded back roads, and got us home from the airport.  They will not leave their neighbours stranded. 

·         What is life like for a taxi driver – do they own a decent wage – how are they viewed by society in Fiji?

Many do not earn what we by Western standards would call a decent wage, but that is not important here.  Most people grow at least a decent proportion of their own food (except possibly in Suva City).  See above re society views. 

·         You say the roads are bad   – what are they like? Is there a bad accident rate?

The roads are appalling!  I can’t say much more.  It is really a “see to believe” type of thing.  The accident rate is also appalling.  Buses catch on fire regularly http://www.fijisun.com.fj/2013/07/05/another-bus-burned/ , minibuses crash regularly http://www.fijisun.com.fj/2009/09/16/bus-passengers-escape-death/

 and buses crash .  It is not so much the death rate, but that the accidents are always so shocking.  The shock coming from the cause, and also that we know that when someone dies or is seriously injured here, the financial toll on the family will force them into poverty.  (around 40% of Fijians live in what we call poverty, many in “informal settlements”. 

·         What are the main ‘social’ issues that are worth exploring in Fiji?

Poverty in housing – see “informal settlements” which we would call slums or shanty towns, or squatter settlements http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=227553

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=238556 with an estimated 300,000 people in Fiji living in squatter settlements (total population just over 900,000 in Fiji) this is a pressing issue for so many.

tamavua i waiSquatter settlement at Tamavua i wai (near Suva).  Source: http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=238556

Another source says that it is only 100,000 in squatter settlements, but I would go with the 300,000 having lived here.  http://news.ccf.org.fj/students-teachers-viewing-the-documentary-struggling-for-a-better-living-squatters-in-fiji/ also notes importantly that “Besides having no proper legal title to their homes, the vast majority of these people lack basic amenities such as piped water, sewerage and electricity”.

Poverty in education (school fees for one child are about $280 per year, but this is a struggle for many families, and children are disallowed from school regularly if their fees are overdue). It is a daily story in both major newspapers at the start of each school year.  http://www.fijisun.com.fj/2013/01/23/children-turned-away-for-not-paying-fees/

A better life for their children (just like all parents).  This involves spending a large proportion of the family income on education, and the hope of immigrating to the developed world.

·         What is Jerry and his family like – when you say ‘characters’ what would we find    compelling about them?

They are an amazing family.  Fijians often live in extended family groups.  Jerry and his family live in a village in Tailevu, and live on land owned under traditional title, that is passed through clans in traditional ways too long to go into here.  Jerry is head of the family.  The family is originally from Bau Island which means that they are highly regarded as Bau was the old seat of power in Fiji.  Also, too long an explanation re their compelling nature.  You will find most Fijian families compelling I think, but as Jerry and his family both operate a business and travel to and from town for work and schooling via boat, bus, carrier, taxi, minibus, and live a rural traditional lifestyle by the ocean, they are a good example of the best of Fiji.  Jerry’s son Eddie is 21, and a real thinker.  He knows everything there is to know about pig farming and takes responsibility for the schooling and school fees of his younger siblings.  He is a very attractive person both inside and out and a dear friend.

·         How real is the risk of flooding in the Delta – does this affect the roads? What season is worse for this?  http://www.pacificdisaster.net/pdnadmin/data/original/FJI_2012_FL_NEOC_Sitrep14.pdf

Gives a true picture of what happens to roads and transport in Fiji during the yearly (sometimes 3 times a year) floods.  Road closures, bus services suspended, bridges washed out.  But still the taxi drivers and carrier drivers manage to get people around.  That is when boat travel comes into its own.  You take a fibre from one point to another and bypass the flooded roads.  Flood season from December to April.  Floods here are devastating due to the quality of housing. Most houses made from corrugated iron roughly put together.  To get a picture of what it is like see http://poleshift.ning.com/profiles/blogs/7-of-10-sinking-fiji-this-current-flood-is-worse-than-the-floods

Some awesome pictures of the Nadi flooding that has many people calling for the whole town to be relocated. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.365058533519909.106465.112621892096909&type=3

Children brave river dangerous river crossing to catch a ride to school since damage to crossing 7 months ago in Cyclone Evan http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=238801

·         Even though there aren’t ‘water taxis’ as such do the boats that people take out loans for carry other passengers.

fibre fdb

Source: Fiji Times Online

Yes, they get loans from FDB (Fiji Development Bank).  This is a real life story and a typical one: http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=190741

It’s been such fun reading about life in Fiji from you mails – from Kava to riding horses in the sea – I feel like I have almost transported myself there from London for the day!

Fiji Roads Corporate Plan 2013 – see 1.3.3 and tables.  You will get an idea from the “horses mouth” about road conditions, and also the number of unsealed roads (where the term “road” is used loosely). http://www.fijiroads.org/sites/default/files/fra-corporate-plan-2013-final.pdf

“Irish Crossings”  http://www.fijisun.com.fj/2012/01/27/students-cross-flooded-creek/

are regularly washed out, bridges closed etc.  I can’t find a good example online as most of the info on Fiji is really quite lame, but Air Pacific (now Fiji Airways) has a great map in it’s inflight magazine showing the sealed and unsealed roads on each island.  Maybe you can pick one up from the local travel agent.  That will really give you a good picture.  Unsealed roads literally are little more than dirt tracks. I live on one, and it is very close to Suva.  Anyway, if you hit the google map http://goo.gl/maps/EmR99 and zoom in, you might get a bit more of an idea.  Drivers here are very skilful.  Many of the roads on the islands literally brush the ocean, with cliffs on one side, water on the other, and mud in between.  The road to Levuka from the ferry stop is harrowing, especially in the dark, and if it is raining.  If two vehicles meet, one has to back up.  Often that is a big, full bus or truck.  If one car or bus breaks down, then everyone waits.  That of course is a great opportunity for any taxi or carrier driver on the “lee” side of the breakdown as they come somehow, as if by magic, and ferry people from the traffic jam to the boats.

44 Million PET bottles in Fiji in one year! It’s Official – Pollution spiralling out of control

More trawling the internet……..  I came across a report prepared by the Department of Environment, Fiji, for a meeting of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).  Maybe they didn’t know that acronym is already being used for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which is unfortunate.

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On the banks of the Rewa River, Fiji

Anyway, while trying to get a handle on the scope of the problem of pollution in Fiji, I found this paper.  I am not sure of when it was presented, but it was last modified on 27 September 2010. http://www.uncrd.or.jp/env/3r_02/presentations/BG4/4-1FijiCountryReportKL.pdf

It states, amongst other things, that:

PET Bottles

In the year 2003 from January to December,the total influx of PET bottles in Fiji was recorded around

44 million which includes 1.7 million of imports and 42 million PET bottles being produced locally. (Note that the production 5 (sic) of PET bottles serves to mean the bottles that are blown up locally using imported pellets)

If that was in 2003, what has happened since then, in the last 10 years?  I might be able to work it out.  Coca Cola Amatil, Fii Water, and perhaps some other companies use blowfill technology  here in Fiji.  Perhaps others do too. If one looked at the companies using blowfill, and their profits and units in 2003, and then did a calculation on the subsequent years, one may be able to come up with both the number of PET bottles present in Fiji over 10 years, and also the percentage of them produced and sold by each company using the technology.   Blow fill technology in itself may reduce a company’s carbon footprint, however, the sheer weight of numbers of the bottles is overwhelming when there is no real plan to dispose of them.

The paper also highlighted

Solid Waste at the moment is either being thrown in the open dumpsites, illegally disposed of in the sea or on unused land, in the streets or being burnt in piles in the backyard. Burning of municipal waste is also quite common despite and towns and cities have been continuously exposed to destructive effects such as carcinogenic toxins from burning and impacts of poor waste management.

and it goes further to indicate

Litter

A litter survey was carried out along the Suva Edinburgh Drive for 1.8km and1.5km along Suva Queen Elizabeth Drive. The predominant pollutants identified in both the Draft 12 surveys were snack packets followed by Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles and plastic bags.

 and that:
Solid waste disposal facilities are currently very poor in Fiji with about 7 out of the 11 sites being located in mangroves, which are polluting the water bodies. Not a single rubbish dump around the country is environmentally safe and socially
acceptable. These dumps are managed poorly. Most of these open dumpsites are infested with flies, rodents, pests, and scavengers. Besides it emits a foul smell and there are no  mechanisms in place to ensure that the leachates do not leak into adjacent land and waterways.
About Plastic Bags:

b.
Plastic Bags
At the moment, the department are working closely with municipal councils on how best this issue could be tackled, where the focus would be more on awareness and setting up incentives, rather then focusing
too much on alternatives such as bio-degradable plastics, which also has adverse effects.

Coca Cola Amatil – recycling in Fiji – a fuller picture

Recently, I emailed a major Water Bottler here in Fiji, with its main market in the USA, and asked them some questions about their recycling plans and initiatives in Fiji.

Their response so far is very positive, and I will keep you posted, however, I am not sure that what they are being told is the full picture.  Today they told me:

We work with Coca-Cola on the recycling initiative. We pay Coca-Cola a fee to process our recycling; they arrange the bags, and do pickups for our large customers.

Additionally, Regular consumers can drop off their recycling directly at the Coke depots.

A fuller picture of the situation here regarding recycling from my observations: The information the Water bottler received regarding the joint procedure with Coca Cola Amatil is correct, but doesn’t quite give the full picture.   The reality of the situation is quite different from how they make it sound.  I live here in Viti Levu and travel all around the island.  Additionally, I do also have to travel to other islands in the Fiji Group.

Recycling here is not what your sources have made it out to be.  I met with Coca Cola over the last couple of weeks at their facility in Suva.I asked them the same questions that I asked you, including how do they plan to be proactive regarding recycling.  The current situation is that most of the population do not know that you can recycle here in Fiji.  The reasons being numerous and complex:
1. there is no public education campaign
2. there are no bins outside supermarkets or bus stops.
3. there are very few bins on the roadside.  In fact between Nausori (where Suva airport is) and Nabua (Suva City), there are no bins at all that I can see on the roadside.
4.  I personally have never seen a recycling bin anywhere in Fiji, although I understand that some resorts have them, and I did see some cardboard versions of them in the security office at the CCA (Coca Cola Amatil) facility.  Even at the new ANZ stadium, Olympic Pool, Damodar National Aquatic Centre, there are no recycling bins.  In fact at ANZ stadium, there are no bins at all in the forecourt or on the stands.  This could present an opportunity.Outside even major supermarkets the only bin I can see is often a plastic bucket for ATM receipts.
5. I asked at CCA if they could provide some of the cardboard recycling bins and some pamphlets, and was told that I couldn’t have any of the bins, and that the pamphlets would have to be emailed to me to print.  That still has not eventuated.
6.  I was told emphatically that the recycling bags (which are like big garden waste bags) would not be dropped off to customers in the delivery cycle, but that their regular customers know that the bags have to be collected from Suva.
I indicated to them that as Fiji has 332 islands (and over 500 islets)and the Fiji Islands are scattered over 1,290,000 square km of the Pacific Ocean, that collection from Suva for many people would be an impediment. This was hotly denied.  I asked what islands currently recycle, and was told only Taveuni.  There is no indication of any recycling on Vanua Levu (the second largest island) or any other islands that I know of, or were mentioned by CCA. As mentioned, I know that some resorts and perhaps other communities have instituted recycling on their own. Apart from that, most of Fiji is rural, including on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.  The Coca Cola trucks deliver to all of these places.  I asked whether bags could simply be put on the delivery trucks and the process explained to the shop keepers or business owners, but was told “no”, as sometimes people put other “rubbish” in the bags. I was also told that CCA had no plans at all to initiate recycling programs as they are awaiting container deposit legislation here in Fiji.  I am not sure how much you know about the political situation here in Fiji, but that is likely to take maybe several years.
On pressing the CCA staff, I did finally persuade them that if I found “specific people” on the islands or around Viti Levu (the main island), that they would agree to drop off the bags in the monthly delivery cycle (and I was clearly told it would take one month!), and then collect as required.  I was told that I needed to pass on the list of “specific people” to CCA and they would deal with it from there.  I am reluctant to do so, and will monitor it myself, due to the attitude and defensiveness of the CCA staff at the meeting. I also know from other contacts at some of the resorts that the Coca cola delivery is weekly, not monthly.
I also asked CCA about why their community spending in Fiji is so low compared to other countries they operate in such as PNG and Indonesia.  For example, in Bali, Coke branded trucks and staff clean the beaches daily.  This has proven to be a market share driver for them in that area.  Coke also sponsors scholarships, community farms, orphanages etc in those other countries.  The reason I was given for community spending in Fiji being so low is that they wait to be asked, and if it is a worthwhile cause they would agree, but that they do sponsor the Coca Cola games each year which costs $500,000 FJD.  Are there any recycling facility at the Coke Games?  I question why this expenditure is not on the table of spending.
I am in contact with resorts and other island communities, and they are interested in recycling and want me to get this moving as soon as possible.
To give you an idea of what the daily rubbish (which is mostly recylclables) looks like in Fiji, I have made a special link of photographs giving a recent snapshot of the issue at https://alicevstokes.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/could-one-simple-idea-help-solve-the-problem-of-how-to-get-recycling-going-in-fiji/

koronivia to lokia 5km

Source: Google Maps

lami nausori

Source: Google Maps

I have a link to the article published in the Fiji Sun about our group https://alicevstokes.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/get-our-clean-up-published-in-print-how-i-did-it/.  It was reported recently that on the one weekend of 5-8 June 2013, that approximately 1000 volunteers (our group had 300 volunteers so we were most likely the largest group) collected 25 tonnes of waste which were transported to landfill.  The clean up was only from Lami to Nausori which is just a very small part of Fiji, so you can imagine how much is still left!  Lami to Nausori on map below marked A to B.

I have been racking my brains about the cost of getting recycling bins for public places, and how they could be made from recycled PET bottles, and stumbled across the below idea.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could make these bins out of dumped or salvaged bottles!  It could also provide employment here, and be a great brand advantage fora company that wanted to take it up.  It would really promote the concept of true corporate responsibility being companies that are proactively thinking about their packaging and its stewardship, without being forced to, in the absence of any robust compliance framework as exists in developing nations such as Fiji.  See link for picture https://alicevstokes.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/15-ideas-on-how-to-recycle-plastic-bottles/
My blog and facebook site are only new, but already the reach is wide, with the Australia, New Zealand and the USA topping the list of viewers. Every shaded area on the below map has a reader of my blog.blog reach new  This indicates that the issue of recycling and environmental and cultural sustainability is important to many.

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 2012 Fact Book)

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Rubbish, Suva

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.   Also see 2011 Fact Book for net profit.

 

 

Could one simple idea help solve the problem of how to get recycling going in Fiji?

 

plastic bins

Bins made out of PET bottles

Could this one simple idea be part of the solution to community education and a call to action for recycling of PET bottles and aluminum cans in Fiji?  Picture Source: http://www.designsclue.com/15-best-ideas-of-how-to-recycle-plastic-bottles/

The below photos are all taken in Suva City Fiji, Levuka (Ovalau Island, Fiji), Samabula (Suva City), Nakasi (on the Suva Nausori corridor), Nausori, Rewa River bank at Manoca Estates Nausori.  Even in the tranquil looking photographs, see if you can spot the floating PET bottles.  If you drive by, or stand on the river bank of the Rewa River, Nausori, which flows directly into Suva Harbour at Laucala Bay, you may not be aware of what lurks every 5 meters down the river bank.  Take a look over the edge, and you will see dump site after dump site of rubbish, PET bottles, recycling, cardboard, car parts, washing machines, tyres, fans, daipers.  All of this is regularly set alight (normally on Friday afternoons), or if heavy rains come, it is washed into the sea.  As the Rewa Delta is prone to flooding, at least once a year, a great proportion of this is washed into the ocean.

 

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Koronivia Road, Fiji

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Koronivia Road, Fiji, the large bag is the recycling bag provided by Coca Cola Amatil in partnership with Fiji Water – the only concession to recycling here. I had to get a taxi which cost $40 to collect the bag myself as a few weeks ago, Coca Cola would not drop them off anywhere.

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Makoi, near Hanson’s Supermarket, Nasinu, Fiji

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The alleyway between the Chinese restaurant and the Immanuel Christian Fellowship Church, Nabua, Suva City, Fiji

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Suva City, the sea wall near the Holiday Inn.

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The beach outside the Suva City Council Offices, Suva Fiji

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Daily Skip bin, Suva City Markets, Fiji

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The beach outside the Presidential Palace and Fiji Inland Revenue and Customs Authority Building, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Suva City

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The beach opposite the Suva City Council Buildings and Sakuna Park (near McDonalds), downtown Suva City, Fiji

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My location, Koronivia, Fiji

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Fire burning rubbish in downtown Suva, on the sea wall area between Suva City Library and the Holiday Inn.

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The beach in downtown Suva City opposite the Government Office Tower

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Street bottle collector, Muhammad Ali, with his bags of PET bottles that he salvages from rubbish bins outside the Suva City Council Offices, the Government Towers, and the rubbish bins of Suva City. He walks miles to take these bottles back to the Coca Cola Amatil factory for $1FJD per kg, or washes them at the Mobil service station on Victoria Pde, and sells them to the juice sellers at Suva City Market.

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Polystyrene lunch packs and plastic bags in downtown Suva City, by the sea wall near Tiko’s floating restaurant. Every one of the white polystyrene packs say “Bula” or “Fiji” so if you see one washed up on your beach you know where it is from. Maybe they should change the words to “From Fiji with love”

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MH Supermarket, Nakasi, Fiji. Note the small red bucket near the door that serves as the only bin.

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Rubbish at the bus stop, Nakasi, Fiji

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Rubbish and recyclables in the drain at the bus stop, Nakasi, Fiji

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Fiji Water bottle floats quietly towards the sea, downtown Suva, Terry Walk, Nubukalau Creek outside MHCC department store.

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Garbage bags full of daipers and PET bottles dumped in Koronivia Creek at the Fiji National University, Koronivia Road, Fiji

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Contents of 10 garbage bags of rubbish dumped in Koronivia Creek, Fiji National University, Koronivia, Fiji

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Rubbish Koronivia Road, Fiji

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Household rubbish dumped on Kings Road, between Nakasi and Nausori, near Koronivia Research Station, and Fiji National University Farms.

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Plastic computer monitor disintegrates slowly in creek at Fiji National University Farm, Koronivia, Fiji

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Plastics mixed with household rubbish, found in creek, Koronivia Research Station Farm, Fiji

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Rubbish dumped over the bridge, downtown Suva, outside the fish market on Nubukalau creek.

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Plastic MH supermarket bag floating in Suva Harbour

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Coke bottles float in Suva Harbour, downtown Suva City outside Tiko’s floating restaurant

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Small boat moored near Tiko’s floating restaurant, downtown Suva City, with Coke bottle

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Plastic Coke bottle Suva Harbour

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Rubbish on beach in Suva City, opposite Sakuna Park and McDonalds

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Close up of rubbish and recyclables on beach in Suva City, opposite Sakuna Park

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Rubbish and recyclables on beach daily opposite Government Office Tower and Suva City Council Buildings, Suva City, Suva Harbour. Tiko’s restaurant floats in the background.

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Tyres and assorted rubbish and recyclables on beach in Suva City, opposite Government Buildings

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Private rubbish dump, Koronivia Road, Fiji. Once a week, the dump is set on fire to burn rubbish, daipers, plastics, glass, recyclables. The smell of burning plastics is overwhelming.

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Recyclable PET bottles flattened by vehicles at the junction of Kings Road and Koronivia Road, Fiji

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Rubbish and PET plastic bottles on the beach right outside the fence to the pool at the Holiday Inn, downtown central Suva City. The Suva City Council Office is also next door.

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Rubbish and plastic bottles dumped in Koronivia Creek, Fiji

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Rubbish, plastics, PET bottles, at Samabula, outside BSP bank, Fiji, near Suva City

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Street person sleeping in doorway of shops near BSP bank, Samabula, Suva City. At least he has recycled bottles and packaging.

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One of two full trucks that took away 10 tonnes of rubbish from a 5km stretch of rural road from Koronivia to Lokia, Fiji, collected in one morning by 300 volunteers.

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Council workers and residents with the big recycling bag – the only avenue for recycling for a very limited number of Fijians.

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Rubbish, PET bottles, recyclables, plastics, collect on the roadside between Nausori and Suva (this photo in Koronivia on Kings Road at FNU research farm) after being thrown from buses and cars.

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Large bags of rubbish and plastics are regularly dumped in creeks and drains, Koronivia, Fiji

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Rubbish and plastics awaiting collection to go to landfill near the beach at Levuka, Ovalau Island, Fiji. The stand is to try and keep dogs away. Children swim in the sea in the background.

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Rubbish, plastics, tyres wash up on the beach at Levuka, Ovalau Island, Fiji