Ministers, diplomatic corps, local businesses and civil society members came together on Monday evening to celebrate the launch of the Vanuatu Recycling and Waste Management Association (VRWMA).
More than 65 attendees filled the ballroom of the Ramada Resort for the launch event. They were welcomed by the Chair of the new association, Andrew Hibgame, who outlined the events that led to the formation of the initiative.
“Three years ago, we might not have envisaged that Vanuatu would be leading the global fight against plastic pollution in our seas,” he said in his speech. “However, on Independence Day in July 2017, our Prime Minister, recently returned from a UN Oceans conference, announced that Vanuatu would be banning single-use plastics.”
“Prior to the Oceans conference, there were voices in our community calling attention to our marine plastic problem. We saw petitions to ban plastic bags and litter clean-ups that demonstrated that the problem was real. However, it was the government commitment to tackling plastic pollution that has created the momentum we are seeing today.”
Hibgame said that the aim of the association, which has an independent board, is to bring together players from business, government and civil society to find solutions to waste management that are the best fit for Vanuatu. One of the association’s first projects is likely to be a deposit scheme for beverage containers.
The Prime Minister Charlot Salwai spoke of the need for such an initiative in his address and stressed that collaborative efforts are crucial in reducing pollution in marine and terrestrial environments.
“I am encouraged to see how citizens and residents of this country rally their support behind government policy direction to create a healthy and sustainable environment for today and tomorrow,” he said in his speech. “The challenges to our environment are immense and government cannot do everything. We need partnership. We need commitment. We need responsible citizens, and together we can create a healthy environment.”
“I personally think it is a great initiative to complement the government’s efforts to address waste management and control pollution.”
The joint enterprise is being funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) through the J-PRISM II project, in partnership with SPREP. J-PRISM is currently assisting with the implementation of independent recycling associations in nine island countries across the Pacific.
The Ambassador of Japan Harumi Katsumata declared the association officially established, saying: “We look forward to Vanuatu Recycling and Waste Management Association’s collaboration and sharing their experiences and knowledge when needed by others in the Pacific.”
J-PRISM Project Officer Faafetai Sagapolutele said that VRWMA is the second association to be established in the region, following Samoa, who created their own association two years ago.
“Next week will be the third one, in the Solomon Islands,” Sagapolutele said. “The establishment of these associations in the Pacific is one of the outcomes of the Clean Pacific Roundtable that was held in Fiji in 2017. The whole purpose is to strengthen recycling operations in the Pacific.”
The association will hold a public consultation session early next year to give community members an opportunity to find out more about their activities.
(Original Article can be found here at Daily Post Vanuatu)