The Bad and Ugly of Litter

18 April 2018

Rubbish, especially plastic in our oceans is a huge global problem that we can't keep ignoring. Plastic is a physical danger to sea creatures and is now part of the food chain through animals ingesting plastic particles and eventually onto our own dinner plates.  We can all act at an individual level with our everyday choices and practices to prevent further plastic contamination of the ocean and our health. 

“Lately there has been a lot of posts on social media about rubbish being left at beaches with many people airing their disappointment in those responsible.  Air New Zealand staff did a clean-up at Social Centre beach in Nikao and by the next weekend, bags of rubbish were found at the beach again.  As you can imagine, this is pretty disappointing for the staff who worked so hard out of their own hearts to pick up all the rubbish” says Hilary Boyes, Waste Programme Coordinator for Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI). 

“It's pretty simple. When rubbish is thrown out of a car or left on the beach or in parks there is a high likelihood it will end up in the ocean, becoming dangerous to marine animals and impacting the health of our oceans and planet. We can all do our part by not littering and by picking up rubbish when we see it lying around" adds Boyes.

Boyes has worked in Kiribati and Australia on waste management and says that while litter on Rarotonga is generally good compared to other Pacific islands where she has lived or visited, there is still a lot of room for improvement. "If you open your eyes to it, there is lots of litter lying around".  In particular after all the rain we have had recently, there is a lot of litter on the beach and in streams. It’s sad”.

An idea the ICI WATSAN team wants to promote to people is "plogging", which is a new online community on Instagram for a large group of people around the world who combine running with picking up rubbish. “The idea is to take a bag when you go for a run/walk and when you see rubbish do a squat to pick it up. The squatting and carrying the extra weight of the rubbish adds to the fitness benefits and obviously picking up rubbish before it goes into the ocean or waterways is a good thing. If you want you can then post a picture of your bag of rubbish on Instagram to share with the rest of the global community and support each other” says Boyes.

Boyes is a plogger has already collected over 650 pieces of rubbish since she decided to count in the last few weeks. She hopes to collect 5,000 pieces of litter during her time in Rarotonga. "But I hope I don't get to that. I hope I no longer find rubbish when I run so my bag comes home empty. Or at least I hope I have to change my running route" she says.
“I love the ocean and I love Rarotonga. It's my way of saying thanks for allowing me to be here and to swim in our gorgeous lagoon".

“ICI is working on a number of waste initiatives such as a cost benefit for glass crushing and mechanisms for operating a sustainable financing scheme for waste management.  The sustainable financing scheme involves adding a small additional cost on the price of products (like 15c on plastic bottles and cans) which we then get a portion back once we have returned the container for recycling. This scheme works well in almost 50 countries around the world. It just gives containers a small monetary value so we take the time to return it for recycling instead of littering or having it end up in the landfill” says Ngametua Pokino, Secretary of ICI.

We hope to make Rarotonga achieve zero waste to landfill. Will you join us?

You can also join the online plogging company and link with Hilary on Instagram at Kiwi_hb