Getting rid of waste is something that we would all rather not think about. But in Niue, different Pacific organisations are coming together to create a pilot project to create awareness in villages around safe waste management, reports Asia-Pacific Journalism.
Report – By Susan Epskamp
Compost. It may be simple, but it has proved to be an effective way of managing organic waste.
This project will use this method involving half of Niue’s population with the help of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in partnership with the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom).
Lusianna Ralogaivau, SPREP’s Global Environment Facility Project Coordinator, says the Niue project is a pilot to demonstrate composting to reduce unintentional persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins and furans.
Ralogaivau says this project meets the obligations of the Stockholm Convention by reducing the priority POP emissions.
At the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the international community commited themselves to protecting human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants.
SPREP’s 2000 study, Management of Persistant Organic Pollutants in Pacific Island Countries, highlights the significance of managing the waste of persistent pollutants in developing nations.
It states the management of chemicals and hazardous wates are difficult for Pacific Island countries because of the lack of information about the types and volumes of materials being brought into countries.
There is also a poor understanding within the wider community of how these should be used, stored and disposed.
Dr John Robertson, a senior lecturer of chemistry at AUT University, says traditional approaches to waste deal very poorly with persistent organic pollutants.
“Traditional rubbish fires are very low temperatures and often don’t break down POPs but simply evaporate them into the air where they (randomly) go somewhere else
“Burning almost anything creates small amounts of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which are carcinogens.”
Another form of traditional waste methods is dumping, which can also cause trouble for the environment, Dr Robertson says.
“Dumping things in uncontrolled rubbish dumps means that soluble material leaks out and travels through the environment.”
Ian Richardson, living in Fualahi in Niue, says he makes his own compost because the soil is very shallow and very high alkalinity due to the high levels of calcium carbonate.
“I am a backyard gardener. Most locals here have no idea about soil as they seem to be stuck in the traditional ways.
“They use the slash and burn methods to clear bush or the government caterpillar to clear the land.”
Dr Robertson says composting is a way that puts waste in a defined space.
“About 99.9 percent of the time you end up with an excellent soil conditioner as the only byproduct,” he says.
“Composting can be done on a household scale or on a community scale and will, to a limited extent, destroy nasties like POPs.”
The training for the seven villages participating will start on September 14 with a compost consultant coming in through SPC’s POETCOM member (Titikaveka Growers Association in Rarotonga).
Stephen Hazelman, POETCom’s organic systems extension officer, saw this project as a good way of doing something productive with organic waste.
“The training will be about compost production. We are making it practical with demonstrations to actually show what compost can do to plants, and the other effects,” he says.
Hazelman explains that although the idea is to transfer the methods used in Niue and use them throughout other Pacific Island countries, it is not going to be easy.
“There is a lot of work to do in this one year pilot project.”
Hazelman understands the challenges his team face while trying to introduce this new project, but he believes they will face more challenges to keep it going after the pilot is finished.
“Composting is funny in the Pacific, it has been promoted over long periods of time but nothing really sustainable. Everyone tries and asks people to do composting but after the first or second one, nobody ever does it again.”
Ralogaivau is more optimistic that the project will progress well.
“This is not some new science being introduced, but taking practices that are already taking place to another level and ensuring all gaps are met in the whole jigsaw of what would be an ideal waste management system.”
Ralogaivau hopes that aside from the knowledge resulting in the much anticipated behavioural change, together with the enhanced waste management that leaves no gaps, “the system will be able to sustain itself”.
On a larger scale
The project is just one aspect of the Pacific POPs Release Reduction Project, which aims to reduce emissions from poor solid and hazadous waste management practices.
The Pacific POPs Release Reduction project is co-funded through the Global Environment Facility – Pacific Alliance for Sustainability (GEF-PAS) and Agence Française de Développement (AFD). It is executed by SPREP, in close cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Susan Epskamp is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism Studies paper at AUT University with a passion for people.
Ridding the world of POPs: A guide to the Stockholm Convention on POPs, published by Secretariat of the Stockholm Convention and United Nations Environment Programme.