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.

15 Ideas on how to recycle plastic bottles

I came across this today: http://www.designsclue.com/15-best-ideas-of-how-to-recycle-plastic-bottles/

Wow!  Maybe it will solve some of our problems.  I have been wondering how to get recycling bins in public places in Fiji and worried about the cost.  No need to worry further – just find someone who can help me with putting them together!

Also, check out the garden fence, hydroponics, and house!

Is Paradise really a Possibility?

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Roni at Namoimada, a white beach near Rakiraki

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?IMGP0005

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!

To think is easy. To act is difficult.
To act as one thinks is the most difficult of all.
Goethe

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?

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Mist on the mountains, Levuka town

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.

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Our friends and neighbours, the Narayan family. We were honoured to be invited guests at the 21st and 18th birthday party.

Informal settlement. Source: http://www.usp.ac.fj/?id=10926

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.

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Market Savusavu

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.

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Produce grown at home

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?

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Children walking to school, Savusavu

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?

Could we make recycling bins from recycled plastics? Could we have a total 100% recyclable solution?  Is it possible for Fiji to become a change agent and leader in the Pacific?

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!

Birds on a wire – waste water in Fiji

Birds on a wire at the back fence.  It was so unusual to hear them all there at once – some finches, some other types that I left my bed on a Sunday afternoon to investigate. All household water (shower waste, bathroom waste, kitchen waste) comes from taps in our house.  It all goes nicely and neatly into a sink of some kind and then disappears through the plumping.  It quickly re-emerges into the open drain that surrounds the house, that flows into another open drain that flows into the Rewa River about 200 metres away.  Sometimes the open drain fills up in various places with mud or weeds or topsoil and creates a filthy, stinking mosquito and toad ridden moat that surrounds the house on three sides.  On this day, I had managed to go knee deep into the slime and dig a trench that seemed to let the water flow away.  As the water flowed away and got shallower and shallower, the remaining water became too hot for tadpole survival, and the birds noticed that the tadpoles had no-where to run, no-where to hide.  It was like the birds were watching the best show on earth.  The next day the drain was empty, and the mud was covered in a myriad of bird footprints of all sizes.

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Birds on a wire

 

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.