I noticed recently that a lot of people come to my blog searching for Tide Times and have probably been sorely disappointed. Here they are for any sailors around the place. I also sometimes need them, as now I am an island dweller, it is handy to know if I am traveling between islands as often the fibreglass speedboats only go from certain places at high tide!
Ok, here it is, as promised, the bed from recycled paint cans, sticky tape, and cardboard!
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.
I 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 to 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. The 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.
- 50 used paint cans (you could substitute large juice cans)
- 4 rolls of packing tape
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
This great idea would be perfect here in Fiji! Solar panel, composting toilet, and folds down to handle extreme weather.
So many un-used shipping containers here. Mountains of them sitting around in “container parks” for sale. Each one costs about $5000 FJD (about $2500 USD) yet the habit here is to build corrugated iron homes for more than ten times the cost which are not cyclone resistant, let alone flood tolerant.
If these homes were also on wheels, they could be moved to higher ground in the event of cyclones and floods, often caused by tidal surges, or even the rising water of the ocean due to climate change which is as we speak, causing villages to relocate to higher ground.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
A litter survey was carried out along the Suva Edinburgh Drive for 1.8km and1.5km along Suva Queen Elizabeth Drive. The predominant pollutants identified in both the Draft 12 surveys were snack packets followed by Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles and plastic bags.and that:
Solid waste disposal facilities are currently very poor in Fiji with about 7 out of the 11 sites being located in mangroves, which are polluting the water bodies. Not a single rubbish dump around the country is environmentally safe and socially
acceptable. These dumps are managed poorly. Most of these open dumpsites are infested with flies, rodents, pests, and scavengers. Besides it emits a foul smell and there are no mechanisms in place to ensure that the leachates do not leak into adjacent land and waterways.
About Plastic Bags:b.Plastic BagsAt 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 focusingtoo much on alternatives such as bio-degradable plastics, which also has adverse effects.
This time, I will let the pictures taken near home speak for themselves. For my home, click here. Maps source: Google Maps
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?
My life in Fiji -I met my husband in Australia. At the beginning of 2012 he returned to Fiji due to visa issues. The day before he returned, my dad had an accident and landed in hospital for many months, so I stayed behind, working at a University in Queensland, and caring for him, traveling back and forth to Fiji over the year, traveling to SavuSavu on Vanua Levu (the second largest island), but basing ourselves in Suva. In November 2012 we made the decision that I would move over to Fiji with our son so we packed what we could in suitcases and said goodbye to friends and family. We landed in Fiji on 18th December 2012 and I have been here since.
Since I have been living here in Koronivia, my life has changed so much. We live in a semi rural community on a long dirt road that runs along the Rewa River. We live in a corrugated iron 2 bedroom house with no hot water, no fridge (although I did buy a freezer), no washing machine or dryer, a TV that only gets one channel, no stove or oven, (just a two burner camping stove), no bed, no furniture save a folding plastic table and three chairs, a bed for our son, no car, no high heels… you get the picture.
So what do we have?
We have time with family here, and friends, although I miss my family and friends from home so much.
We have lots of time to think and observe while traveling by bus. We have a garden that grows almost everything we need – corn, bele (which is like spinach), pumpkin, rosella, dalo and more. We have neighbours who know our names and consider us their valued friends. I have internet – sometimes! We have time to travel cheaply and in every place we go we seem to have relatives.
I have been to Levuka, Rakiraki, Suva, Nausori (our closest town), Korolevu, Beach Cocomo, Sigatoka, Nadi, Savusavu, Namoimada and seen every place in between.
Fiji is truly a paradise, but it is being drowned by rubbish. No need for us to go and investigate the famed “garbage island” in the Pacific, it is right here!
Major corporations that are overseas owned are trading profitably here, but seemingly with little corporate responsibility for either community projects or packaging stewardship and recycling. Is it because in other countries there are covenants such as the Australian Packaging Covenant and other regulations with respect to waste water, water efficiency, and corporate responsibility to adhere to, but those things are not developed here? Is that what they mean when they call Fiji a Developing Nation?
Fiji, unlike what may be in the press and propaganda back home, is a peaceful and harmonious place to live, looking forward to a 2014 election, and hopefully democracy. There is progress everywhere you look. There are approximately 48% iTaukei (indigenous) Fijians, and 43% Indo-Fijians who have been here for many generations since they came on “Girmits” (agreements for indentured labour), with the rest “Other”. “Other” includes Chinese, any other nationality, plus importantly, Fijians of mixed race. This group are people who may have had a European great grandparent, but also who have lived here for generations.
There are still many people living in informal settlements (which we would call shanty towns) of corrugated iron, tin, and wood, all held together with a hope and a prayer. Fiji is a nation of islands, with a surfeit of shipping containers. Couldn’t we make safe and secure tropical homes from shipping containers? Couldn’t we make mobile libraries and health centres from these resources? The cost of buying a used shipping container here is approximately $5,000 FJD. The cost of building a corrugated iron two bedroom house is approximately $25,000 FJD.
We have fresh fruit and vegetable open air markets daily, but about 40% of women and children have anaemia. There is an alarmingly high maternal and infant mortality rate. For some reason it seems to be a source of pride that Fiji was recently placed the 40th best place to be a mum out of 80 less developed countries in the Save the Children State of the World’s Mothers Index 2013.
Many Fijians live with boils, believing they come from a change in the weather. Diabetes is a growing problem.
Paraquat (weed killer) is a popular suicide method. Very few public toilets have toilet paper or soap for the fear that it might get stolen by the needy. Suva City Library staff informed me that if you want to use the toilet, you have to go downstairs to the front counter and ask for toilet tissue, and that this, unbeknown to me, is a FACT, known by all others.
Fijians all hope sincerely that tourists will return in droves after the election, but my fear is that intrepid travelers wanting to see “the real Fiji” will be saddened beyond belief when they see the refuse along every beach, waterway, road and path. What will sadden them most is perhaps the feeling that they can do nothing, but they can! Purchasing power is an immense tool. If consumers when reaching home purchased only products from companies that traded ethically in developing nations, would that make a difference?
If instead of shaking their heads and returning to the hotel or resort after an excursion, each person picked up a bag of rubbish and took it back to the hotel for disposal, would that make a difference? If before going out and about, each person asked the hotel staff for a bag and disposable gloves to do just that, would that make a difference?
If on a one week holiday, each person volunteered to replant coral on the reef for just one day, would that help? If the resort organized the coral planting material which is available from the Department of Fisheries, would that help? Should resorts also take a greater corporate and environmental responsibility and be proactive?
Couldn’t we recycle here, rather than baling up recyclables and sending to Hong Kong? Couldn’t we create some “Spiral Islands” and use them as educational facilities? Couldn’t we do something? Is it possible to create a good news story from our situation? With recyclables being worth $1 FJD per kilogram, and the cost of a year’s schooling for a child being $280 FJD, couldn’t we turn our problem into a solution?
Which companies are going to stand up and do what is right, not because they have to, but just because it is right?
Please post your comments as you travel with me through Fiji, and perhaps, united, we can make a change!
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.
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.