Litter survey providing insight into our littering habits

12 December 2018

A survey has been carried out by the Infrastructure Cook Islands waste management staff for the past 7 months to get more information on Rarotonga’s littering habits.  This initiative is part of a small Anti-Beach Litter campaign.

An average of 3.8 kgs of waste has been collected each week since early May from a 100 metre long sample area at Social Centre Beach.  Drink bottles and cans, take-away food packaging, and plastic wrappers have been identified as the items most commonly disposed.

"Even on the better weeks we are still picking up about a kilogram of waste, or about 40 pieces of litter" says Hilary Boyes who is a Volunteer Services Abroad stationed with ICI waste management. "We're looking at hundreds of pieces of rubbish each week we leave behind.  Litter pollutes our environment and our food chain, kills wildlife, can facilitate the spread of disease, can cause physical harm or injury to people, and affects our aesthetic value and tourism”.

 Jaime Short, of Waste Management at ICI said the survey has been an important tool in determining the extent of our littering. "We've known for a while we have a litter problem, but now with statistics, we know the extent of that problem.  An improvement is going to require a complete change in attitude by the whole community" Short adds.  At the moment we don't seem to be register that we are a part of a very damaging problem borne from litter. We are an integral part of the solution. 

Infrastructure Cook Islands teamed up with Cook Islands Tourism earlier in the year and have new bin stations ready to install at Social Centre.  "We know from the past that providing recycling bins does not always fix the problem. It can even make littering worse with illegal dumping of business and household waste and dead animals. But we hope that the time is right for the bins to be reinstalled” adds Short. 

“It is time we started taking responsibility for our own waste and stop littering.  Waste management is everyone’s responsibility” says ICI Secretary Diane Charlie-Puna.  “As part of the strategic direction for waste management, ICI aims to increase its presence where waste management is concerned.  These small baby steps taken during the litter campaign provides ICI with insight on the directions to take to progress better waste management.  Most importantly, every individual’s cooperation will add so much value to what we are trying to do and even the bigger picture in terms of ecological health and the economy” adds Charlie-Puna.  “ICI is very fortunate to have Hilary Boyes based with us since February of this year through VSA as our waste coordinator.  She will be leaving us this weekend.  Thank you for your drive and passion in providing waste awareness messages through this campaign and extending the awareness programme to the Pa Enua”.