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.

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 bed from recycled paint cans

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Ok, here it is, as promised, the bed from recycled paint cans, sticky tape, and cardboard!  IMG_0003

Let me make it clear, I am not trying to set myself up as some kind of self professed DIY guru (although maybe I should start a blog site called just that…) or trying to turn this blog site into a site about how to make things out of recycled stuff. Of course my daughter has visions of becoming an overnight internet sensation from this post.  If enough people want a bed out of junk, maybe she will!

I am simply a mum living in a place where furniture is expensive, money is tight, and there is so much that is discarded that is actually useful.  I am often a woman on the edge, wondering how I am going to maintain a lifestyle that I want the kids to have in a country like Fiji where money is always tight.

IMG_0009I am also concerned constantly with the perception here of what is actually “trash” or “rubbish” as once something is discarded it is immediately viewed as that.  All of the paint cans, lids and cardboard that I used would have otherwise ended up in landfill, a problem for my kids to have to worry about in their lives – heavy metals, paints etc leaching into the mangroves and the sea.  Living in an island nation in the middle of the Pacific, the prospect of an ocean full of toxins and rubbish, and void of fish is actually frightening.  I have once seen a fridge floating in Suva Harbour. 

Our live in family recently increased from me, my husband and one teenager; to me, my husband and three teenagers.  The two new teenagers arrived from Australia with a suitcase each that was filled with nothing that is actually useful in Fiji a land of alternating mud and dust – no towels, no toothbrushes, no sheets, just video games and high heels it seemed IMG_0014to me.  Frustration and despair got me nowhere, but I must admit I felt it keenly.

Anyway, with two extra kids, and no extra money or furniture, I had to pull myself together and see what I could come up with.  If only I could work out a way to spin a towel or a sheet set from spiderwebs and butterfly tears, my world would be complete!

I didn’t, but I did manage with the help of my 15 year old daughter to make her a bed using only the below.  IMG_0012The hardest part was being disciplined enough to pick up the stuff when I saw it in the dumpster and take it home, and to stop my family from trying to “tidy up my junk” every Saturday where they would try and put it all kinds of places to get it out of the way.  Also, my nieces and nephews were constantly using the paint lids as frisbees and hurling them down the hill where I would often find them a week later.

I used:

  • 50 used paint cans (you could substitute large juice cans)
  • 4 rolls of packing tapeIMG_0002
  • 3 regular cardboard boxes
  • 1 cardboard box from a large electrical appliance
  • 8 recycled coke bottle lids
  • some of the white plastic binding tape that they use for packing white goods
  • about 30 small screws and a screwdriver
  • 1 thin piece of foam
  • Material to cover
  • The only things that I bought new were the screws and the packing tape and the foam, plus the material to

    IMG_0015

    cover, all the rest of it was salvaged from building sites and dumpsters, plus Jacks of Fiji Nakasi store gave us some great boxes.  The total cost of the bed was $18.

Instructions:

  • We used 50 cans in ten rows of five to fit a single mattress.
  • Lay them out to make sure it fits.
  • Make a cardboard stencil to cover 4 cans, 6 cans and 3 cans.
  • We grouped the cans into fours and sixes and then put them together as you would leggo so as to give the structure some strength.
  • We then had a group of two lots of six cans, and one lot of three cans.
  • You need a stencil for both the top and bottom of each set.  I think we used eight stencils of the 4 can set, twelve stencils of the 6 can set, and two stencils of the 3 can set.IMG_0018
  • Trace the stencils onto cardboard boxes and cut with stanley knife or scissors
  • Tape the paint cans together in sets, then tape the cardboard stencils to the top and bottom of each.
  • Then tape the leggo pieces together.
  • Lay the large cardboard on the floor and place the large leggo pieces together
  • Score the cardboard so that you can fold the extra cardboard up to make the sides of the bed.
  • Tape around the cardboard.
  • Place some cardboard boxes on the top of the bed, and cover with a piece of thin foam if you have it.
  • Lay the material/fabric on the floor overlapping so that there are no gaps if you are using pieces, and make sure that there is enough on each side to cover the sides of the bed, and fold over the bottom.
  • Turn the bed frame upside down and lay on top of the middle of the material.IMG_0019
  • Cover the base of bed with a piece of material, and fold the top material over the sides and to the bottom so that no joins will show when the bed is right side up.
  • Use a piece of white packing tape, or cardboard to get a straight line, and screw the material into the base, all folded in, using the packing tape as a guide.
  • Use some long screws, and screw the coke bottle lids into the base as small legs.
  • Turn the bed over, put on the mattress, go to sleep!IMG_0020 IMG_0022 IMG_0029IMG_0031

How to make a bean bag cushion chair from recycled umbrellas

             IMGP2363 Recycled umbrella bean bag cushions

From this

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Two umbrellas dumped on the ground

To this!

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using a cardboard stencil

Ever wondered what to do with broken umbrellas?  In Fiji, after any downpour of rain, along the roadside, you will see literally hundreds of broken umbrellas – ahh, they don’t make them like they used to.  By the way, one thing I discovered when I was doing this project was why my grandma always told me to buy a good quality umbrella regardless of the cost.  I have often wondered why umbrellas these days seem so flimsy and turn inside out the the slightest gust of wind.  Is it because they are so cheap, and poorly made?  Not really.  When you have to take one apart, you see the enormous amount of effort that has gone into making one.  The IMGP2359umbrella skin is hand stitched very well to the spokes at several places on each spoke, and then hammered into the top of the handle using a metal clamp.  However, when looking at the fabric of two umbrellas that seem an equal size, and then sewing them together, I noticed that not all the triangular panels are exactly the same size, even though they look it when the umbrella is up.  Actually with the cheap umbrellas, the fabric

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triangles are all quite different sizes.  This must create a tension issue when the umbrella skin is stitched to the spokes, and therefore create instability when the wind catches the umbrella.  If I were a scientist, I would do an experiment to see if the part that flies up in the wind, is the section with the biggest piece of triangle fabric compared to the others, and therefore with the lowest tension.  Sadly, or maybe a good thing for the world, I am not a scientist.

Now to the real business of this post.  Seeing so very many broken umbrellas (actually only the frames break usually, and the fabric is intact) by the side of the road after a bit of rainy weather, and needing some more furniture, I decided to see what I could do.

I took a small stitch unpicker (or scissors would do) with me and walked to the bus stop.  On the way I found two or three umbrellas in the gutter, and unpicked the fabric from the frame which took about 20 seconds each time.  I stuffed the fabric in my bag and felt bad that I left the frames where I found them.  I then got the bus 5 minutes down the road to my local market place, and got off.  I collected another 10 umbrellas there, and did the same thing, and went home.

I have since felt so guilty about leaving the frames on the road side that I take them home and use them for trellises for the long beans and cucumber plants.

People thought I was very strange and asked me what I was doing, but now, taxi drivers who have taken me home and seen the cushions I made bring me umbrellas each week when they find them on the road side!

IMGP2365I soaked the umbrella skins in a bit of bleach for a while, washed them and hung them out to dry.  The rest was easy!

Check the umbrella skins for any small breaks in the stitching, sew up the top part where it joined the top of the handle (there will be a small hole in the middle of each umbrella circle).

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Dom spray painting

IMGP2356You can spray paint a stencil pattern if you like.

Sew two umbrellas of the same size together inside out and leave a small opening to insert the filling.

Fill with foam chips or polystyrene balls, or even used and clean plastic bags and old clothes.

Sew up the hole.

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Jone and Samu

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Ellena and Kim

Sit down!

Read the paper,

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Renee having a hard earned rest

watch TV,

relax!

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

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/

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/

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.

Volunteer to Dive Fiji

Want to volunteer to dive Fiji Islands and help collect marine data?  Vinaka Fiji can help!  Click here for more information. Located in the beautiful Yasawas, they say:

“Comprising over 300 islands, 4,000 square miles of reefs and 1,500 species of sea life, there are plenty of reasons to volunteer on Marine Research and Conservation programs in Fiji!

Take the opportunity to learn to scuba dive, or extend your skills in this incredible marine environment of the Yasawa Islands. Then take your new skills and begin conducting underwater surveys in the warm, turquoise waters of the Pacific. Visit traditional villages and get to know the community, meet the headmen and children, and support their learning about environmental marine conservation and fishing practices.” Source Vinaka Fiji

Cleaning baby clams, who need a helping hand

Source: Vinaka Fiji

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

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

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:

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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.

I just can’t get this idea out of my head! Plush upholstered foot stool from PET plastic bottles

Capture footstool 1

Steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 it seems. Source: http://www.designrulz.com

Capture footstool 2

Finished stools – this could be steps 5 to 100, or just step 5, I will let you know

 

As I have been trawling through the internet looking for answers to what consumes me since I have been in Fiji

  • why is there so much plastic dumped in Fiji and the Pacific,
  • who is responsible – corporations or consumers,
  • what happens to the PET plastic bottles,
  • what happens to the liquid waste from drink bottling companies such as drinks giant Coca Cola Amatil in Fiji, also owner of Fiji Bitter, Bounty Rum and more,
  • where do they get their water from in Fiji etc, etc, etc

I came across this idea and instruction photo series (even though only 4 pics, the instructions seem short – therefore right up my alley!) for an upholstered foot stool with the internals being just a few plastic bottles sticky taped together.  It looks so easy!  I posted a link to it and 44 other ideas to recycle plastic PET bottles days ago, but then this one idea just keeps tapping me saying (make me! try me!) I then trawled the internet again to see if there are any other ideas for furniture similar, as we need a couch!

Furniture in Fiji is very expensive, and I would assume that the same is true of other developing nations.  It could be because traditionally, and still now, the majority of iTaukei (indigenous) Fijians sit on the floor to eat, and also sleep on the floor.

Anyway, I digress.  I could find no other examples of this type of furniture.  I have been thinking how light it must be, and what a great use of PET bottles.  In case you are new to my blog, we have literally millions of them here in Fiji in the form of pollution in the ocean, and on land.  I won’t labour that point here, feel free to browse through the posts, pages and pics.

I also today, due to our lack of furniture, had occasion to sit on my verandah on a 30 litre yellow plastic cooking oil drum.  We also have a million of them here in Fiji!  I was thinking that I could first make the foot stool from the bottles, and then after that, venture into a sofa from the drums. 

As I couldn’t find any other similar posts, I copied the pics and inserted here as it was in a longer article I posted last week, and may have been missed by other furniture-less unfortunates such as myself!

I am going to make the foot stool on the weekend, and will post a picture of my effort, and any tips.  I am sure it is not as easy as it looks to herd all the plastic bottles successfully into a sticky tape, (cello tape if you prefer), cardboard sandwiched perfect circle! The earlier mentioned article was at http://www.designrulz.com/product-design/2012/11/45-ideas-of-how-to-recycle-plastic-bottles/

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.

 

 

Get our Clean Up published in print – how I did it

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Full page article in the Fiji Sun

I wanted to raise awareness in our small community about the garbage, recycling and environmental issues here in Fiji.  My goal from the start was to get an article in the newspaper.  I didn’t think I’d get a full page with colour photos, but I got lucky.

Here are the steps I took, maybe they will work for you.

First, I looked up the Clean Up the World website just to get some information.  The Clean up the World Weekend this year is in September.  I decided that it was too far away.  As I am originally from Australia, I also knew that Clean Up the World was initiated by Ian Kiernan who started Clean Up Australia so I did some research on that also.   I registered our group for Clean Up the World, and we now have our own member area where we can post information, or people can contact me if they want to be involved.  Member area click here.

In 1989 an ‘average Australian bloke’ had a simple idea to make a difference in his own backyard – Sydney Harbour.

This simple idea has now become the nation’s largest community-based environmental event, Clean Up Australia Day.

It is hard to believe that this campaign began as the inspiration of one man, Australian builder and solo yachtsman, Ian Kiernan.

As an avid sailor, Ian had always dreamed about sailing around the world.

In 1987 his dream came true when he competed in the BOC Challenge solo around-the-world yacht race.

As he sailed through the oceans of the world in his yacht ‘Spirit of Sydney’ he was shocked and disgusted by the pollution and rubbish that he continually encountered in areas such as the Sargasso Sea in the Caribbean.

Having waited years to see the Sargasso’s legendary long golden weeds, Ian’s excited anticipation turned to anger and disappointment when he found them polluted and tangled with rubbish.

The polluted state of the world’s oceans motivated Ian to act.

Once back in Sydney Ian organised a community event with the support of a committee of friends, including Clean Up co founder Kim McKay AO – Clean Up Sydney Harbour.What happened after this is now well documented.

Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day in 1989 received an enormous public response with more than 40,000 Sydneysiders donating their time and energy to clean up the harbour.

Rusted car bodies, plastics of all kinds, glass bottles and cigarette butts were removed by the tonne.

The idea of a clean up day had ignited an enthusiasm and desire among the community to get involved and make a difference to their local environment themselves.

The next year Clean Up Australia Day was born. Ian and his committee believed that if a capital city could be mobilised into action, then so could the whole nation.

Almost 300,000 volunteers turned out on the first Clean Up Australia Day in 1990 and that involvement has steadily increased ever since.

In the past 20 years, Australians have devoted more than 24 million hours towards the environment through Clean Up Australia Day and collected over 200,000 tonnes of rubbish.

The next step for Ian and Kim was to take the concept of Clean Up Australia Day to the rest of the world.

After gaining the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Clean Up the World was launched in 1993. Source http://www.cleanupaustraliaday.org.au/about/about-the-event/history

IMGP5651I looked up the Department of Environment website here in Fiji.  Their calendar had no items, but I heard on the radio that as part of World Biodiversity Day, that the Department was coordinating a clean up.  I contacted IMGP5654them by phone, and they let me know that there was no clean up being organised but that groups were free to celebrate biodiversity in any way they pleased, and that if I needed gloves and garbage bags, they could assist.  The did let me know that there was a clean up being organised from June 5 – June 8, and that they could send me the registration form by email.

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I completed the registration form for our area, and sent it in, nominating that I would have 100 volunteers.  From there, as there was no publicity of note, no TV advertisements, nothing in print that I could find, and nothing on their website, I made a flyer.  I decided that we would clean up on Saturday 8th June in Koronivia, near Nausori (home of Suva airport), Fiji.  If you haven’t already read other posts, I live in a rural area, on a long gravel road, with approximately 18,000 residents, and no garbage collection.

I knew that the amount of garbage we would collect would be massive, as I have been in the habit on a Sunday afternoon of doing an informal pick up, and each time, I collect about 75kg at a time.  Because I knew that there would be a lot of garbage, including a lot of recyclables IMGP5755such as plastic drink bottles and aluminium cans, I put in writing and confirmed on the phone to the Department of Environment that I needed a commitment from them that the garbage would be collected on the same day as the clean up, and not be left overnight.

The commitment was given.

With flyer in hand, my husband and I took a day out from work, and went door knocking.  We went to the local Police Post also and asked them to assist with traffic control. The response from the community was so positive that I knew we would make the 100 volunteers.

The next day, on the bus, I started talking to the lady I was sitting next to, and asked her if she was interested in being involved.  She was very enthusiastic, and we exchanged numbers.  Within an hour she phoned me and told me that she would have about 100 volunteers.

IMGP5627My husband contacted his friends at Fiji National University, and told me that they had organised a group of about 40 students.

I knew then that we might get about 250 people turn up, so decided to increase the number to 300 volunteers .

I contacted Department of Environment with our new numbers, and requested 300 pairs of gloves and 600 bags.  I phoned Coca Cola Amatil in Fiji and asked them about recycling.  They have big bags (1,000 kg rice bags) which you can collect from their facility in Suva to fill.  If you bring the recyclables back to them, they pay $1FJD per kg, or 75c per kg if you call and ask them to collect.  I organized that I would collect eight bags from them.  I also IMGP5628spoke to their marketing manager and asked them for some Tshirts or similar as we would be picking up a lot of packaging from Coca Cola and their owned brands.  They said that they have no Tshirts, but they could provide 10 cartons of Coke Zero for the volunteers.  They take all their own brands of plastics, plus Fiji Water, plus all aluminium cans.  I mentioned to them that I would be contacting the two big newspapers here, and would like to mention their support in the media release.

I phoned BSP which is a local Bank here, that promotes themselves as “Go Green”.  I explained what we were doing and they agreed to support us with some wristbands for the kids, stickers, and hundreds of biodegradable shopping bags.  These bags I gave to Shanila, our local shop keeper.  I also told BSP about the proposed contact with the media.

IMGP5624On Friday afternoon before the clean up, I hired a taxi, and went to pick up the gloves and bags from the Department of Environment, plus some Tshirts (only 100 were available), and some bottled water.  As I had to stop by the Coca Cola factory to get the recycling bags, I had to leave some stuff behind, and the Department staff were to drop it off that night.  I arranged with Liti to meet me and she would collect her supplies.  We ended up with double the bags and gloves, making it 1,200 bags due to a mix up, but we used them all!

I emailed the newspapers alerting them to our activity and the number of volunteers, and some background information about our area.

I knew that to get into the paper, we would have to have a massive turn out, and collect a mountain of rubbish.

On the day of the clean up, we went out very early, with me coordinating at one point, my husband at another, and Liti down her end of the street at the Village.  We also had another great coordinator mid way near the Police Post, called Tema.

We had great support also from the local Police football team and the students from Fiji National University Campus that is on our road.

All the volunteers were so positive that during the morning, so many other people came out onto the streets to help.  They helped also by going into feeder roads and yards and assisting others to clean up whatever was there: tin, metal, glass, coconut husks by the sackful, you name it.

During the clean up, I took lots of photographs.IMGP5755

Once the rubbish had been collected, and the truck was due at the pre-arranged time of 11.30am, I phoned my contact from Environment.  I also wanted to let her know about the volume of garbage, as a small truck would have to do many trips. She told me that ‘the truck driver was a Seventh Day Adventist, and would not be coming today’.

Knowing that the community would feel a huge let down at that news, I decided to press on, reminding her that she had given a commitment.  She asked me to call the Minister’s personal staff.  I did just that, and informed him of our problem.  Being a pragmatic person, he quickly organised a solution: two trucks from the nearest Town Council.

The trucks came, me taking photos all the time, the street was clean. The Department of Environment dropped off hot dogs for everyone, and the atmosphere was one of jubilation and pride.

I compiled an email and sent it in to the newspapers after the event, with photos included.

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Capt Niumataiwalu from the Office of the Minister (far left) organised the Town Council trucks to collect the rubbish

One of the editors from the Fiji Sun picked it up and contacted me for some more information.  I sent him a blurb, and it was published the following Thursday.

The community has really come together through this activity, and rubbish and what we are going to do is a hot topic on the street whenever neighbours meet.  There will be another clean up in the next month, leading up to the Clean Up the World Weekend in September.

In the meantime, we have now got recycling bags at every shop along the road, and soon to have recycling at the FNU campus.  I am in touch with other communities about how to get their recycling started, and have been contacting some of the major makers of plastics asking them what other measures they might take to reduce the amount of recyclables that go into the ocean or are IMGP5662burned or buried here in Fiji.  So far, the response from them is less than adequate, but I will continue working on it.  If you have the time to like the facebook page, it really does help spread the message and help this issue gather momentum.  http://www.facebook.com/CleanUpFijiProtectingParadise

The state of Education in Fiji – what are we teaching them – are we drowing?

Our son, Dominic is in Form 3 (grade 9).  The school he currently attends is a very expensive school by Fijian standards, Suva Christian Community High School.  It is a beautiful school housed in an old church building.  The school has just built a new science lab, the facilities are clean, and the education is unique.  It is a small school with less than 100 students from form 3 to form 7.  Because of the size of the school, they do not offer any inter-school sports, as there are no teachers to coach teams, and to field a team in any age group would be difficult given the numbers.  They also do not participate in swimming as an organised activity.  At the primary school they do, but at the High School, they don’t.  Kids can compete in the inter school swimming, but only if they are members of an outside school club.  This is a bit sad, as the High School is at Laucala Beach and very close to the National Swimming Centre’s 50m pool.

It is also sad, as the drowning statistics in Fiji are horrific.  The drowning rate here is seven times the rate in Australia.

“FIJI has recorded the highest drowning rate per capita with a total of 75 lives being lost from water-based activities last year.

 

And the Water Safety Council of Fiji Steering Committee confirmed that this drowning figure was more compared to Australia that has a population of 22.8million as of September last year.

Committee convenor John Philip revealed this in an interview yesterday saying the drowning per capita rate used to be 4.5 times worse than Australia. However, he said last year, it was almost seven times worse.” Source: http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=231902drown 1

“STATISTICS show there were 270 drowning deaths in Fiji between 2008 and 2012, and that last year’s figure was the highest at 75 cases.

 

Speaking at the International World Water Safety Day celebrations in Suva yesterday, Minister for Youth and Sport Commander Viliame Naupoto said the drowning toll recorded so far for this year was 11.

He said seven drowning-related deaths were recorded during the first 22 days of this year alone.

“The harsh reality of these drowning fatalities is that 25 children under the age of 10 were left unsupervised in or around water,” Cdr Naupoto said.

“I would like to reverse this trend with a different twist and create a different set of statistics that read three lives saved every day through successfully learning how to swim.

“That would mean that we will have a target of 1095 able swimmers for this year.”

He said drowning was preventable and those dedicated to water safety knew there was no magic bullet to prevent drowning and that people needed to follow water safety steps.

“A lack of awareness of water safety, particularly in relation to our children, is an issue that can bring tragedy to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

“Keeping watch and being vigilant is the key to eliminating child drowning and preventing new drowning.” The WHO estimates that 388,000 people die through worldwide every year.” Source: http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=228002

drown 2Drowning is not an issue for only toddlers or infants.  Drowning is an issue is particular in High School age children, through to adulthood, according to the 2012 Drowning Report of the Australian Royal Life Saving Society 2012.  Source: http://www.royallifesaving.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/4002/2012-Drowning-Report.pdf

Drowning is a preventable death.  It is only preventable if children (and adults) learn swimming, life saving and survival techniques (such as floating or treading water), and resuscitation skills.  How will they learn if not incorporated as compulsory in the school curriculum?

Suva Olympic Pool, you can see the sea in the background. Source: Fiji Sun

One would assume (or I did at least) that since Fiji is a nation of islands, that Fijians as a group would know how to swim.  This is not the case at all.  One rarely sees Fijians swimming in the ocean.  There are only two pools in Suva.  The Olympic Pool in Suva City, right near the water front is only open from 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to 6pm on Saturday.  Even if kids or adults wanted to train in the mornings, they couldn’t.  If you visit the pool on any given day, you could literally fire a gun, and not risk hitting anyone!

There is also the Damodar City Aquatic Centre (at the National Fitness Centre).

There are, as far as I know in fact no other public pools in Fiji.  I also do not know of any school that has their own pool.  If I am wrong, I welcome your feedback.

Why is the risk of drowning over the age of 15 years much higher than before that age?  Is it because at this age, compulsory school swimming is not a priority, and that over 15 years the parents assume that the kids have learned to swim by osmosis, and leave them unsupervised to play with their friends?

In April this year, one of Fiji’s great leaders and chiefs, Tui Macuata, a champion of the environment and conservation passed away by drowning.  His fishing boat capsized.  It was reported that his companions stayed with him for as long as they could.  When the chief lost his strength, his companions prayed for him, then swam to shore to raise the alarm.  The manner of his passing is tragic.

“They had gone fishing in the Tui Macuata’s 115-horsepower speed boat. He had just returned from Suva and when he wants to relax he comes to the village and goes fishing,” Mr Foster said. “Their boat started taking in water around 2am in the morning and the three had been sleeping. When Tui Macuata woke up he alerted the other two.”
According to Mr Foster, the boat capsized shortly afterwards. “They swam two kilometres from where they were. When they were swimming he informed his tavale (Ratu Peni Vulaca), that he was getting tired and weak; Tui Macuata was hanging onto his tavale’s Tee-shirt.
“They were fishing at the barrier reef where there are strong currents. The two prayed with him and continued swimming.”  Source: http://www.fijisun.com.fj/?p=149828

The late Chief was only 57.  I pose the following questions:

Was the chief fully clothed whilst trying to swim?  Lifesaving training teaches you to take off as much clothing as possible in a survival situation.

Did the Chief’s companions know that a person who is drowning will try and hold on to the rescuer, and risk drowning them also?  In a survival situation, talk to the swimmer and encourage them to float on their back, so that you can grip them under the chin, and the rescuer can then either tread water keeping the nose and mouth of the person above water, or holding the chin, sidestroke to safety.  In extreme situations where the victim starts to panic, you can knock them out, and then grip them under the chin and tread water or side stroke to safety.  In survival situations, a prayer may be a good calming device, but it did little to save the Chief so that he could continue his great work.

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Mourners carry the funeral mats at Tui Macuata’s funeral. Source https://www.facebook.com/VodafoneAthFijiFoundation

The late Chief received the 2006 Global Conservation Award. http://www.seaweb.org/getinvolved/oceanvoices/ratuaisea.php.

At the beginning of this blog, I was going to simply post a few photos of one of the elite schools in Suva City, Fiji, as a reflection of the state of education here.  I got side tracked a bit, but my point is still the same I think.

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Outside the main administration office, Suva Grammar

Anyway, to continue, as there are no sports or swimming at our son’s High School, and he has successfully found his feet in Fiji after moving from Australia, we decided to search for another School.  Last Friday, we had an appointment with one of the most prestigious schools in Fiji, Suva Grammar.  On entering the school, I was shocked and dismayed at the state of the interior.  The floors and walls are filthy.  Tiles peeling off the floors, walls covered in the grime of maybe 20 years.  It had a depressing atmosphere.  I did not bother to visit the toilets.  It made me think, as I often do when visiting other public buildings and campuses here.  The toilets at the Fiji National University Koronivia Campus are third world.  No toilet tissue, no soap, and the smell is overwhelming.

What are we teaching the young people destined to become leaders in Fiji and the Pacific?  If we look at the state of Suva Grammar, are we teaching them that THIS IS THE BEST THAT YOU CAN EXPECT?  THIS IS ALL THAT YOU ARE WORTH?

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Outside the Principal’s Office, Suva Grammar

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The stairwell that leads from the main office to the Principal’s Office, Suva Grammar

Why would we expect them to have pride in their education if we do not value them enough to keep it clean?  Why would we expect that children would learn to swim if they are given no opportunity?  Why are so few Fijians educated to tertiary level?  Fijian tertiary enrollment numbers are 114th in the world per capita.  If education at a prestigious school is not what they hoped, why would they be interested in further education?  If Fijians are to be educated about environmental issues, where do we start?

 

 

 

Unlocking the Power of Mom Bloggers for Social Good

Unlocking the Power of Mom Bloggers for Social Good

I just joined this group, Mom Bloggers for Social Good.  The article makes interesting reading and I can’t wait to get involved more.  I am obsessed with the amount of recyclables here in Fiji with no “home” after the drinks are drunk, the noodles eaten, the coffee enjoyed, the ice cream scoffed.  These plastics end up either being burned, buried, or tossed into the waterways.  From Suva City to Nausori, from Nakasi to Nine Miles, from Sigatoka to Rakiraki, literally every human step you take, you step over a plastic recyclable.  Corporations trading here need to be encouraged to proactively manage container stewardship in the absence of any robust compliance framework in developing nations.  The environment is groaning under the weight of it, the heart also feels heavy. Please, let us know your experiences and ideas.

One Saturday morning in Fiji – we are what we eat

 CaptureThis time, I will let the pictures taken near home speak for themselves.  For my home, click here.  Maps source: Google MapsIMGP7053IMGP7100

Last Saturday on our way to the market to buy  fish for dinner, we found ten garbage bags of dirty daipers and plastics and garbage in our little creek near my home.  Please click above to see where “home” is.
The creek flows into the Rewa River, the river into the reef, the reef into the Pacific.
The water feeds the dalo we harvested for dinner, the chickens, ducks and other livestock feed on the water and produce, the fresh water mussels harvested that day from the river, and the reef fish caught nearby live and breath and eat in that same water.  Some of these plants and animals are for sale charmingly at our local market, some are making their way  perhaps to your table at the resort, or via export overseas.
Fiji Water, whose major market is the USA, told me when I asked them what they are doing about recycling here in Fiji told me not to worry as their water is sourced on the “island of Viti Levu, thousands of miles from industrialization and pollution”.
Newsflash:  I live right here on Viti Levu (the largest island in Fiji, and home of Suva, the capital).  All the photos here were taken on Viti Levu, very close to home. Make up your own mind.

Are you prepared to contact an international company trading profitably in Fiji and ask them the same question and post their response?  What are they doing proactively in developing nations such as Fiji to tackle the problem of recycling and packaging stewardship in the absence of a robust compliance framework?

It’s important that people
know what you stand for.
It’s equally important that they know what you won’t stand for.
Mary Waldrop

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You can’t build a reputation on
what you’re going to do.
Henry Ford (1863- 1947)

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The greatest thing in this world is not so much
where we are, but in what direction
we are moving.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

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There’s only one corner of the universe
you can be certain of improving,
and that’s your own self.
Aldous Huxley, (1894-1963)
Which are you? IMGP7157
The person who says “ I don’t know “
or the person who says, “ I’ll find out ? “
David Baird

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Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, and power in it.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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All glory comes from daring to begin.
Eugene F. Ware  (1841-1911)

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An error doesn’t become a mistake untilIMGP5449
you refuse to correct it.
Anonymous

Clean Up Fiji – Protecting Paradise

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Fishing for bottles in the drain, Koronivia

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Rubbish at Koronivia Road and Kings Road

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Morning on Koronivia Road. No need to stop drinking just because it’s time to move to pasture.

Fiji is literally a paradise.  It is easy to believe in a higher power or God when you come to this vast group of islands in the middle of the Pacific.  Fiji is not like in the tourist brochures at all.  There are resorts, yes, and beaches, but most of Fiji is rural in every sense of the word.  We live in Koronivia, Fiji, on Koronivia Road near the Fiji College of Agriculture.

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Koronivia Road during the clean up

It is a dirt road that goes from the Kings Road Junction of the Nausori to Suva road, all the way down to Lokia Landing.  If you click on the map you will get the picture.  It really is just a dirt road, on an island, in the middle of the Pacific!

 

My husband and I took a day off from our normal activities on the Thursday before the clean up and went door knocking with a little brochure.  The next morning, on the bus to Suva, I met a lady (Liti) and we got chatting, she also was keen to be involved.  We estimated that we would have 300 volunteers, and hoped and prayed that we would.  We had three committed groups in place and hoped for fine weather and success.

The night before the clean up was due to start, with a commitment from the Ministry of Environment that they would collect the rubbish on the same day it was collected, it rained, and then it rained some more, all night long.

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Kids from Lokia Village after the clean up

In the morning, Roni, Dom and I went out a bit heavy hearted with out Tshirts, gloves, and bags, and started cleaning.  The Ministry had helped out with 600 pairs of gloves, and 1,200 feed bags (50kg bags) plus water and hot dogs.  One by one neighbours started coming out of their homes.  After a while, we saw large groups heading towards us, thinking they were on their way to the football.  They were there for us!  Even the local Police rugby team turned up before their game!

What a relief – a godsend – and it really made us proud to be part of this community! We saw what they were made of.  Indo-Fijians, and iTaukei alike joined in (plus me and Dom!).

IMGP4212Rubbish Suva foreshore – day after day after day

 

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This is Fiji! Even the garbage men called to work after their shift finished are cheerful!

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Our local shopkeeper and friend, Shanila, who coordinated the supplies for the clean up

Between 7am and 12pm we collected more than 1,200 fifty kilogram bags of rubbish, plus eight big 1,000 kg bags, plus metal, tyres, etc.  All of this rubbish had been either dumped in the open irrigation drains, thrown as litter from cars, buses or foot traffic (again, view the map and imagine how little traffic there might be), or was on people’s compounds.

The truck did not arrive on time, so after phoning the staff from Department of Environment and learning of their unfortunate miscalculation in hiring a Seventh Day Adventist truck driver to work on a Saturday, I was asked to phone the Minister’s personal staff.  I did, and that person was a real pragmatist.  He arranged for two off duty garbage trucks to be sent to collect the rubbish.  The amount was astonishing – but not if you consider that like many parts of Fiji and other developing nations, there is no regular garbage collection, even though the population of our Road is approximately 18,000 souls. 

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Loading one of the trucks in Koronivia

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The group from Lokia Village

There are also no rubbish bins  – at all!  and no way to dispose of rubbish but Burn or Bury.  The problem with that approach is that like many developing nations, a lot of the rubbish is NOT ACTUALLY RUBBISH, but recyclables.  A very large proportion of what was collected consisted of packaging that could be recycled.  Coca Cola Amatil Fiji provided us with 10 cartons of drinks, and eight recycling bags which I collected from their Laucala Beach facility.  The recycling was collected by the garbage trucks, and the drivers would have taken it back to Coke.

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Roni with some of our friends on Koronivia Road

Large companies that trade in developing nations do not seem to have many regulatory requirements to meet with regards to corporate responsibilty for recycling or community engagement. 

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Cheryl and the girls at the shop

 

Every beach, every road, every waterway – plastic!

 

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Rubbish in Suva

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Man on the street at Samabula, Suva

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).

 

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Rubbish at Natovi Landing

CCA’s Fiji market is stated as representing less than 1% of the group’s total earnings.  The total profit for 2012 was $558.4million AUD.  That would put the Fijian market at somewhere less than 1% of that figure, which is somewhere less than $5,558,400 AUD for the year (CCA Fact Book)

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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, and why charitable donations to Fiji represent approximately .002% of the net profit for the year as stated in the 2011 Fact Book.

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Rubbish dumped in Koronivia Creek

Currently in Fiji, there seems to be no real strategy for recycling.  Consumers have to go to the Coca Cola Amatil facility near Suva to collect a bag.  Once the bag is filled with recyclable plastic bottles from any CCA product, or any aluminum can (no matter the brand), CCA will collect the bag, and provide a replacement.  They will pay $1FJD per kilogram if you drop it off to them, or 75cents FJD if they collect it. 

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Rubbish Samabula, Suva

I was told today however, that it may be possible for CCA to drop off the bags to communities and islands on a monthly basis with the delivery truck that delivers the products, and collect the bags the next month.  This is a step forward.  CCA stated that they are in a holding pattern in Fiji currently with respect to recycling, due to discussions regarding upcoming plans by government to introduce Container Deposit Legislation. In Australia, CCA challenged a move by the Northern Territory to introduce the LegislationClean Up Australia has more information and updates on the container deposit issue.

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Getting ready for the big clean up day at the shop

Our little community has shown that people here want to do the right thing, they just need to find the tools to do it with!  A bin at every bus stop sponsored by and manufactured from recyclable plastics makers might be a step in the right direction!

Levuka, the Old Capital of Fiji

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Dominic outside the old Wise family home, abandoned many years ago. Home of Vaseva Marama Wise (nee Tamani) of Gau, and Thomas Wise.

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Main street looking towards the sea wall

No-one seems to go to Levuka at all, certainly no tourists. It is the old capital, and a bit off the beaten track. We stayed in the Royal Hotel (circa 1861) which is the oldest hotel in Fiji. The place is amazing. A step back in time.  The hotel is just as it was, filled with old furniture and paintings of Fiji from another time, painted by guests of long ago.

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Painting in the Royal Hotel, Levuka, painted by a guest long gone.

It is easy and cheap to travel to Levuka from Suva or Nausori.  Patterson’s Shipping (contact details for Patterson Brothers Shipping here) has a bus-ferry-bus service for around $35FJD per person where you get on the bus either in Suva or Nausori, pass through Korovou and then after a short wait the bus drives onto the boat (Spirit of Harmony) at Natovi Landing where you get off and can go on deck, and then the bus goes by road from the

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War memorial, with Levuka town in the background

landing point on the other side of Ovalau Island to Levuka.  The trip is about an hour on the bus, 40 minutes on the ferry, and another hour on the bus, but a beautiful journey.

Levuka is on the sea, surrounded by mist covered mountains, with a series of sea canals snaking through the town.

Most of the buildings are from Colonial times, and some old buildings stand as monuments, burnt out during one coup or another.  In the centre of the town stands the shell of the old Masonic Lodge, built in 1913, which was destroyed in a

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The shell of the Masonic Lodge Levuka (c. 1913), destroyed in a previous coup

coup, for fears that the Masons were involved in demonic arts.

In many of the villages they still have some of the traditional bures with walls of woven coconut and thatched roofs.

What is really distressing though is that EVERYWHERE along the beautiful sea shore, and in EVERY stream coming down from the mountains is washed up rubbish.

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Tapa design drawn on the canal bridge, Levuka

The trappings of becoming “developed” as a nation.

The place is choked by it. People travelling on the bus from the jetty to the towns and villages have an odd behaviour: when eating or drinking anything, they nicely keep their wrapper or plastic bottle in their laps until they go over a bridge, or near a body of water of any kind such as creek, river, ocean. At that moment, as one, they fling their rubbish out of the bus window.

All I can think is that they truly believe that the water will wash it away and that plastic is biodegradable. I am not talking the odd plastic bottle, I am talking washing machines, tyres, backpacks, bottles, aerosol cans, thongs, clothing, glass, fans, millions of tin cans, Macdonalds cups (from who knows where -I haven’t done a google search, but I would guess that the nearest Macdonalds is in Suva or Laucala Bay, many, many nautical miles from there).

Visitors may wonder at the number of tin cans, roughly opened with jagged tops.  The reason behind the number of tinned cans is that many Fijians don’t have a fridge at home so they consume an enormous amount of tinned corned beef, corned mutton, and tinned tuna and mackerel.

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Approaching Ovalau Island

While waiting for the boat at Natovi jetty, we started picking up some of the rubbish strewn around the rocks and on the beach.  One man joined us, then the small children selling roti to the waiting passengers also helped.  All of the other passengers seemed frozen into inactivity, until it was time to leave, whereby one adult watched this young children dispose of the plastic soft drink bottles they were drinking from by tossing them as far as they could into the sea before boarding the boat.  The only place to put the collected rubbish was in a massive half burned pile.  I am guessing that there is no rubbish collection, and that it is all burned.  From the boat, we saw a huge plume of smoke rising from the spot about 15 minutes later.

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Rubbish on the sea wall at Natovi Landing

The jagged tops of the cans is because Fijians don’t have or use can openers, but open every in this method: Take a very large kitchen knife, put the point of the knife on the rim of the can, hold the knife vertically, use one hand to bang down hard on the handle of the knife until the point pierces the can, then slowly work the knife back and forwards to open the lid.  Even children do this.  It took me more than a month to even attempt this technique as I was so afraid for my safety, but now it is second nature.

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Inside the old Levuka Club, looking towards the sea.

Right on the sea shore, at a beautiful point that juts into the sea, underneath the war memorial which stands on the hill is the Levuka Club. It is a non-descript building with a lawn at the back, on the ocean, where you can sit and stare at the sea, and the surrounding islands, including Gau where Roni is from.

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The old Chubb safe in the Levuka Club – one of the only things that couldn’t be carried away

The funny thing is that the building is trashed, stripped bare, and open. Rain floods the floor. There are only two items left there which I guess where too heavy to be carried away.

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The old pool table left to decay in the Levuka Club

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Chubb safe in the Levuka Club

One is an old Chubb safe that looks like it is a left over from colonial days and could be over 100 years old, the other is a pool table. It is the most massive pool table I have ever seen, perhaps also left over from Colonial days, with legs as thick as a Fijian lock forward’s thighs.

The whole thing open to the weather. It seems that the owner of the club went to Viti Levu (the main island) years ago for a holiday and died in a car accident. He was renting the building, but no-one at all knows from whom. Apparently there are no records of ownership at all, so the building just lays open to the weather, to slowly deteriorate. People in Levuka believe that they will soon be World Heritage listed, and that after the 2014 election tourists will come flocking back. I am not sure that they understand tourists!

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Family sitting on the sea wall, Levuka

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Jumping off the bridge into the sea

Levuka is also the only town in Fiji where I didn’t see a covered fruit and produce market.  I wonder why the Town Council or the community doesn’t make a ruling that the Levuka Club be utilised on Saturday mornings for that purpose.  It would be the perfect spot!  It actually would also be the perfect spot for the Levuka Club where people could gather for a drink, catch up with friends and neighbours, and share a bite to eat.

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Typical home on the way to Levuka

The town also has a fish cannery which operates 24/7.  The cannery is the major source of employment in the town, and the constant noise is also a tourism killer, so I fear that Levuka is destined to fall into disrepair ever so slowly, and never be seen by anyone except the locals, and the odd tourist who is running out of time or money to travel to another island.

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View of the Old Capital cannery and the sea from the Chinese restaurant, Levuka.

There are only a couple of restaurants in town.  There is a Chinese restaurant where the owner is very hospitable, and will entertain you with stories about the history of Levuka and its buildings.  The food is delicious, and it is upstairs in the old Westpac bank building in what used to be the staff club for bank staff in the colonial days.  It has a great view of the sea, and the cannery! The other restaurant serves a Fijian version of western food which to me was completely unappealing.  Considering that almost half the population of Fiji is Indo-Fijian, it is surprising that there is no Indian restaurant in town, and disappointing as Fijian Indian food has a flavour that is so unusual and memorable.

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Levuka Town

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Whole fish with cassava

Fijians have a view that Westerners will not like Fijian food – I am not sure why.  Fijian flavours are so fresh and the ingredients such as cassava, cumquat, chili, fresh lolo (coconut milk), boiled fish, bele (a leafy plant with a thousand uses), dalo, lime, otta (which is like the leaves of a bracken fern), kai (sea mussels), lobster, raw fish, pawpaw, pineapple, plantain bananas, ochra and coconut are so clean in an Asian way, but so different from any other food in the world!

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Old fountain near the Catholic church, Levuka

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Children swimming, rubbish collection

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Waterfall at Levuka (photo: Elliot Stokes)

If you go to Levuka for the weekend, and want to see the waterfall, be sure to walk to the waterfall on Saturday as soon as you arrive in the mid-afternoon, as on Sundays you cannot walk through the village which is on the way to the waterfall, as they do not allow anyone to walk through the village on Sunday as that is church day.  Apparently the Lord does not want us even to use our legs or marvel at the beauty of the earth which he entrusted to us on a Sunday.  No outdoor work is to be done on Sundays, and no children are supposed to play outside.  The only thing you can hear all over town on Sunday is the sound of church services and meetings or “Fellowships” which go on for hours and hours, and involve a lot of stereotypical preaching in Fijian interspersed frequently with a loud “Praise the Lord”, and singing of Fijian language Christian music which is reminiscent of the kind of songs sung in Sunday Schools in the western world.

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The Royal Hotel, Levuka, with the sea canal on the right

To me, there is a disconnect surrounding Christianity in Fiji – a feeling that the more time you spend at Church, the less likely you will be able to commit sins.  The mother of one of my neighbours explained to me that she tells her daughter to fill the children’s minds with the word of God, so that their mind will be so full that the outside world cannot get in.  Fijian Christians seem to have two selves – a Monday to Saturday self, and a Sunday self.

These two people are completely different.

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Volcanic rocks near the site of the first Catholic mass in Fiji more than 150 years ago. Levuka

On Sunday people get dressed in their Sunday best and

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Catholic church, Levuka

travel mainly by bus or foot to Church.  On the way to Church, they throw rubbish.  Arriving at the bus stand, they buy snacks or drinks, and walk to church dropping litter everywhere they go.  The churches are the only buildings with clean compounds, and are the only buildings that are regularly painted and upkept (this goes for the Hindi and Muslim buildings also).  At the end of church there are often “meetings” which involve men sitting around on the floor drinking kava. Then it is off to the market stalls near the bus stand to pick up some fresh fruit or vegetables, and back on the bus to home, dropping rubbish all the way, and then both at church and at home, stinking fires are lit which choke the air with plastic fumes.  The acrid smell penetrates to the throat, and is the smell of a Sunday afternoon at home.

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Catholic church, Levuka

The first Catholic church service in Fiji was held in Levuka,

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Oustide the Methodist Church, Levuka

and Levuka is also according to the Archbishop of Polynesia and New Zealand, the birthplace of the Anglican church in Fiji.

Fiji Pollution

Been in Fiji two months now. Every day I try and think of one great thing that has happened and focus on that.  I wish I had written them all down earlier, as very soon after the great thing, comes another not so great thing, that makes me forget the feeling I had before.  Fiji calls itself a developing nation.  That seems to be a catch phrase that is not based on reality, and the ways it is choosing to develop make me reflect on the “civilised” world I have left.  To “develop” as a nation seems to imply taking the worst traits of the developed world and making them a way of life.

Pollution is everywhere.  From a distance, Fiji is beautiful, but on closer inspection, on every beach, in every stream, in every waterfall, the signs of developing are everywhere in the form of plastic bottles, discarded fast food wrappers, tyres and rusting whitegoods.  In a land where so much is provided from the earth, and growing food for the family is easy, the desire for processed food is overtaking, and plastic is swamping the pacific.

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Plastics, whitegoods, flip-flops and backpacks are just some of the scenery at beautiful Levuka, the old capital of Fiji on Ovalau Island an hour’s ferry ride from Viti Levu and about 2 hour’s travel from Suva.

No plan has gone into how to dispose of anything at all.  There are only two options: 1.  burn it in your back yard; or 2. throw it in a watercourse whether that be an open roadside drain, a stream, a creek or river, and hope that the sea will wash it away.

The smell of burning plastic from backyard fires is choking the air on a daily basis.  The sea does wash away the plastic and rubbish, but it just washes it onto another beach.  The garbage island in the pacific is not limited to the island of trash in the middle of the ocean, but is actually deposited on every beach and harbour, yet still, the appetite for things that come in plastic is insatiable.