Single Use Polystyrene Ban

3 January 2018

The deadline for submissions on the Single-use Polystyrene Ban Policy has passed with no objections to the policy move received.  The next step for Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI) and the Solid Waste Committee is to submit the policy to Cabinet for consideration.

“The direction for managing waste holistically is the 4R Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle concept and making the decision to stop importing or using a product that is difficult to deal with or harmful is an example of Refuse” says Jaime Short of ICI.  “Awareness only goes so far and the issues from non-biodegradable waste, especially plastic, is very real and it is time to act on what we know because we really do not have a choice” says Short. 

Miss Cook Islands, Alanna Smith from Te Ipukarea Society is very excited to see this policy being pushed forward to Cabinet.  In her recent experience in the Miss World competition she spoke of the significant waste management issues we have here in the Cook Islands, and about her work with the Te Ipukarea Society in raising awareness both within Government and among the general population.  “A ban on polystyrene would be a significant step forward in addressing the issue, though there are many other forms of plastic pollution that we also need to make progress on” says Smith.   Smith was particularly encouraged to hear that the Prime Minister shared her concern about plastic waste at the recent launch of the Joint National Action Plan for Climate Change and Disaster Risk reduction.  He also said he was keen to see Government start moving on the issue.

The Committee are moving to ban these products due to the fact that they are non-biodegradable and are a threat to human health and other living things. “It is now time to start implementing a better approach to waste management, some waste has a value here as compost or reusable items, but those such as polystyrene takeaway containers represent a one-time use product which does not breakdown in landfills. It litters our island and pollutes the ocean. Alternatives to polystyrene are available that are biodegradable and contribute positively to our national waste management goals” says Joseph Brider of the National Environment Service.

It is planned to place the import ban for polystyrene on a Schedule under the upcoming Solid Waste Act.  This approach provides for a simpler method for adding other problematic products to the schedule of banned items over time.  “Crown Law and the New Zealand Parliamentary Council office legal drafters are doing an amazing job taking our ‘wants’ and operational aspects and developing them into legislative language and providing advice and options on how we can shape the Act.  We, the Solid Waste Committee expect this Act to come into effect before the end of 2018.  We are hopeful that Cabinet will approve the single-use polystyrene ban, and if passed, we will ensure importers, vendors and the wider community are informed quickly” says Short.  “There is no intention or desire to place hardship on anyone at all and we hope that consumers support the food vendors if there is a price increase in their favourite dish after the switch to alternatives” Short adds.  “Alternatives do cost more than polystyrene at the moment but with more use, the alternatives should become cheaper over time. We hope to move on to other products that cause harm, and have better alternatives or are non-recyclable in the coming years for the benefit of our people, the environment and economy” says Short.

Download the final draft of the policy that will be submitted to Cabinet after June 2018 (submission held until the new Government is established).