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Say 'no to plastic'

Geraldine Panapasa
Sunday, February 04, 2018

POLYTHENE bags or plastic bags take more than 1000 years to decompose and according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), these plastics continue to pose a threat not just to the environment but human health and wellbeing.

Take for instance, Kenya, a country that faced major challenges in waste management and according to Judi Wakhungu, the country's Cabinet secretary at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, most public spaces, rivers, dumpsites and roadside wastes contained polythene bags.

Like Fiji, Kenya's selling point to tourists is her natural and scenic beauty and for Ms Wakhungu, this needed to be safeguarded. But a major concern, she highlighted, was that this natural environment was strewn with plastic waste.

She noted how their national parks were no longer natural but instead littered with hundreds of plastic bags. She aptly called for behaviour change and the need to ensure a sustainable environment and future.

A number of studies have also revealed the negative impacts of using plastic bags and as Ms Wakhungu described, these impacts include its inability to decompose, the aesthetic cost of littering, blockage of sewerage and water drainage infrastructure, public health costs, pollution of the coastal and marine environments, death of livestock and wild animals from consumption of plastic material, air pollution when disposed of through open burning, and danger to human health when used for packaging hot food.

So what did Kenya do to combat this menace?

They implemented several initiatives to minimise and put a halt to the use of plastic bags.

In the same month last year, UNEP launched a major global campaign to end marine litter seeing as more than eight million tonnes of plastic are leaked into the ocean each year — according to UNEP, that was equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute.

On the local front, Government has stepped up its efforts to eradicate the plastic bags problem by imposing a 10 cents tax on plastic bags at retail outlets.

The new tax came into force from August 1, 2017 at point of sale registers and was aimed at discouraging the use of plastic bags.

Our Anti-Litter Campaign article on page 12-13 today highlights a gallant effort by eight villages in the district of Dawasamu, Tailevu who are taking the call to save our environment from the plastic menace and are simply saying "no to plastics".

The community in the villages of Silana, Driti, Delakado, Natadradave, Nabualau, Luvunavuaka, Nataleira and Nasinu are focusing on the 3R concept of reducing, reusing and recycling — in this instance, reducing their use of plastics, and reusing and recycling almost everything.

They are trying to do away with burying or burning their rubbish but instead recycling what they can. Not to mention, each household is encouraged to have a backyard garden for food security.

Perhaps one of the most innovative creations from this recycling effort is the transformation of recycled glassware and ceramic items into floor tiles for their homes. It's the little things we do that can go a long way to making a difference in the world.

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