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/
Source: Google Maps
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. 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)
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.