Moving away from plastic
Our lands and seas have become clogged with plastic and other litter derived from bags and packaging materials. Businesses need to take the lead and start the transition to greener compostable packaging.
80% of pollution in the marine environment has its sources on land the vast majority consisting of food and beverage containers – plastic bottles, plastic bags, and snack food wrappers. Without adequate incentives and provisions by both the private sector business producing these goods and the relevant government authorities, consumers will continue to treat packaging as waste; a by-product of a linear transactional process. There are currently dozens of enterprises in Fiji producing packaging goods for both their own and other businesses’ products. Few of these businesses have instituted protocols for capture, collection, and recovery of the waste associated with their products, nor has general incorporation of biodegradable, compostable, or otherwise sustainable materials into product lifecycles become standard practice within the market.
The concept of “Green Packaging” seeks to mainstream best practices and technology employed elsewhere in the global market to bring closed loop packaging production into the operations of locally-based businesses providing consumer goods to the Pacific Islands. This action will serve to enable and facilitate biodiversity safeguarding, resource conservation, and reduction of both material & energy consumption in the process of packaging of goods for Pacific Island Countries. Public understanding and governmental policy must support the role private sector must play in appropriately managing solid waste pollution and creating a viable market for its reincorporation into the economic activities of Pacific Island Countries.
Benefits of Green Packaging
There are a number of benefits for countries to transition to sustainable/green packaging. These include:
- Reduce degradation of terrestrial, coastal, and marine environments through the promotion and mainstreaming of waste capture, separation, and valuation.
- Introduce and Redesign business infrastructure to accommodate and further promote sustainable resource use and cyclical economies;
- Develop a policy and regulatory environment in which local production and waste collection are prioritized; and
- Reduce fossil fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy intensity per dollar revenue generated by local business operations.
Phase out of Plastic Bags
In 2017, a partnership of concerned organisations organised Talanoa Sessions to discuss the impact of plastics on our environment and particularly on our oceans, and the need for a phase out of plastic generally starting with single-use plastic bags. The goal of the meeting was to reach an agreement on acceptable timelines for such a phase out and for this process be led by the Private Sector.
The participants at the Talanoas agreed to establish a Fiji Green Packaging Steering Committee to coordinate efforts of Government, Civil Society and the Private Sector towards a green packaging future.
Alternatives to current plastic products
PIDF and the Fiji Green Packaging Steering Committee are also seeking and researching alternatives for plastic products – biological, compostable products made from natural sources.
The Fiji Green Packaging Steering Committee has identified a number of products that need to be phased out and has proposed years in which these should be phased out. These are the following:
- By end of 2019 – total ban of plastic bags, plastic straws and petroleum based balloons
- By end of 2020 – total ban of imports of non-compostable bags, rubbish bags and bin liners and cosmetic products containing micro-beads
- By end of 2021 – total ban of import of Styrofoam containers, plastic for frozen products, import and use of plastic utensils, nappies made from petroleum products and chewing gums containing petroleum elements
- By end of 2022 – total ban of plastic bottles and non-compostable materials in product wrapping manufactured in or imported into Fiji
- By end of 2025 – total ban of petroleum products in garments manufactured in or imported into Fiji