Single Use Plastic Ban Approved

7 June 2019

Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI) policy proposing to ban the importation of certain single-use plastic products has been approved by Cabinet on 9th April 2019.  The move to ban these products is due to the fact that they are non-biodegradable, are a threat to human health and other living things if not managed properly and have alternatives readily available on the island.  The policy was developed in cooperation with the Solid Waste Management Committee.

The banned product types are lightweight plastic bags including shopping bags, plastic straws and cocktail stirrers, plastic cutlery, plastic containers with no PET number or with numbers 3, 4, 5, and 7, including plastic plates and seal-able food containers, plastic  cups, including plastic-lined coffee cups, polystyrene containers, meat trays and cups, single-serve butter and spreads and products containing plastic microbeads.

A Solid and Hazardous Waste Bill is currently in draft that brings together existing legislation into a dedicated Bill and will fill the gaps that exist.  “The items listed for banning form Schedule 1 of the Bill” says Director for Waste Management Jaime Short.  “The ban is only on importation so any stock left on islands are fine to be used up”.  Public consultation on the Bill will take place later this year.

“Our Pacific country leaders made a commitment in 2017 at the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Communique to fast track the development of policies to ban the use of single use plastic bags, plastic and styrofoam packaging.  Many Pacific islands have been announcing their product bans over the last two years which has been really encouraging for us here in the Cook Islands working in the solid waste industry.  And now we have made our contribution to the regional commitment and for the future of our children” says Diane Charlie-Puna, Secretary for Infrastructure Cook Islands.

Sectors of the community that will be affected are the importers, supermarkets, takeaway food vendors, market vendors, cafes and restaurants, and to a lesser extent, fundraising groups.  “Many of these stakeholders have already switched to the eco-friendly options which is encouraging for our campaign” says Charlie-Puna.  The country’s largest importer CITC have stopped importing the polystyrene containers altogether.  Now there is a shop dedicated to biodegradable packaging which stocks plastics made from plant based oils rather than coal and crude oil.

“We are now at a point that we cannot continue ignoring the facts that are reported in the media and scientific journals on effects of plastic pollution on the food chain and subsequently our health, the serious plastic issue in the ocean and the burden of non-biodegradable waste littering our islands and filling our landfills” says Charlie-Puna. “Proper waste management starts at the point of production or for our case, the point of entry.  With readily available alternatives, there is now no excuse.  This is a great milestone for us as a country and one that we should be proud of”.

To view the policy, go to http://www.ici.gov.ck/policy-to-ban-importation-of-polystyrene-takeaway-containers.