Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Assistant Minister for Housing and Local Government, Honourable Lenora Qereqeretabua;
Cabinet Ministers;
Director and CEO of Waste Recyclers Fiji and Founder and Director Operations of the Pacific Recycling Foundation, Mr Amitesh Deo;
Esteemed Panelists;
Industry Colleagues;
Invited Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Cola Vinaka everyone, and a very good afternoon.
It’s an honour to be here to mark the third Global Recycling Day celebrations in Fiji and the first of two campaigns – one being in support of the recycling movement, and the other, the declaration of 18 March as the official national Plastic Free Day.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Recycling is not a new term nor movement. It’s been there for years.
Academics have done research, scientists have made drawn findings, activists have been devoted, and Governments have invested. And every year, more commitments are being made.
But if we look back, you will see we are paying more attention to our environment. The growing focus, as you will see almost every day on the news, is for many reasons.
There is more being built, more people in this world, more production, and more consumption. Some argue that’s the cost of development and economic growth.
The land that we live on, build on and feed from, the water we drink and is home to some of the world’s vast marine biodiversity – none of it should be taken for granted.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I come from Sila village. It is small village in the District of Cuvu in Nadroga. So my earliest memories from childhood were by the ocean. And in those days, we weren’t taught about climate change as an immediate threat. We were taught respect. We were taught to respect the Vanua and our oceans just as we did our elders and mothers.
We were instilled with these values because like most of the people of Fiji and the Pacific, it was our source of livelihood.
Like any other social problem, the environment is top of the agenda. And the question is, “how do we manage it in a way we can both benefit and protect?” It’s a big question but an important one too because again, our livelihoods and that of the future, depend on it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year’s Global Recycling Day theme is “Plastic-free Pacific: a plea”. I cannot think of a better word than plea because we really are appealing to the emotions of people with urgency.
The world is producing twice as much plastic waste as two decades ago, with the bulk of it ending up in landfill, incinerated or leaking into the environment, and only 9 percent successfully recycled[1].
Plastic consumption has quadrupled over the past 30 years and production doubled from 2000 to 2019 to reach 460 million tonnes. These truly are shocking figures.
So, like all of you, I wear this lapel. I wear it in support of the recycling movement, and I wear it proudly.
I am told the proceeds from the national effort will go towards enhancing Pacific Recycling Foundation’s recycling programme to outer-islands and maritime areas, who we know are more vulnerable.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In his Maiden Address, you would have heard the Honourable Prime Minister share the need for extensive public consultation on the problems of pollution and environmental damage.
Polluted shorelines and coastal areas, clogged drains, contaminated waters, and rural and urban landscapes polluted by thousands of tons of dumped rubbish and waste, including mountains of plastic.
This is the stark reality.
And because of the seriousness of these challenges, that have direct impacts on our economic prosperity, waste management will also be on the agenda for the upcoming National Economic Summit.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I think we have established that each and every one of us here plays a part in the solution as a shared responsibility.
We do not realise the impact of these little actions in our daily lives and the wider impact this has.
We need more advocacy, not only in boardrooms like this, but right down to a community level. We need to inculcate a duty of care – one that brings about a change in mindset.
And not only physical changes like using a reusable travel cup for your coffee – but adjusting your way of life so that you don’t even consider using disposable cups in the first place.
But recycling alone is not the answer and is only a third of the solution. As much as possible, we should reduce or reuse. Ask yourself if you really need the product.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If we look at the tourism sector, our greatest selling point is our natural beauty and pristine environment. So much so, that our new tourism brand is “Fiji, where happiness comes naturally”.
This speaks to our natural assets and culture and what we are seeing as the new travel trend.
Visitors want to move away from the masses, they want climate-friendly travel and they want to get back to nature. That’s the demand. So how do we offer that?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
About 80 percent of all tourism takes place in coastal areas. Experts also tell us that if current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.Because of plastic pollution in the ocean, even the most remote islands on the planet are now saturated in plastic.
We can be part of the solution. This is why our marketing arm, Tourism Fiji, has partnered with the Pacific Recycling
Foundation. We want to get as many tourism operators as
possible to mainstream recycling into their operations.
Tourism Fiji has been working with the Foundation in raising awareness on best practices, which includes the i-Hub recycling programme.
I am told that Sheraton Fiji Resort is coming on board soon too.
We are now looking at having the i-Hub recycling bins strategically located at places such as Wailoaloa, Jetpoint Nadi and Natadola. That there, is the power of partnership.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On the eve of Global Recycling Day, I urge you to actively participate in the Foundation’s recycling activities.
We are the first country in the Pacific to have a recycling hub at strategic locations. And this is something to take advantage of.
Tomorrow, we will see to another first – the declaration of Fiji’s official National Plastic Free Day.
So the message is clear. Like every other crisis or call to action, we need partnerships and shared visions. And that vision, of a plastic free Pacific, and a plastic free Fiji starts with us.
Vinaka vakalevu.