By Eleanor Gee
There is a growing and urgent need to rid Tonga of plastics, say youth groups who are on the frontline of a fight against single use plastics. The youth who conduct regular rubbish collections in coastal and popular picnic areas and public places say the problem of plastic waste is getting worse.
The rubbish collection is organized by the as part of a Green Campaign launched in 2017, aimed at educating youth to take an active stewardship role over the environment.
The campaign’s Public Liaison Officer, Sam Halahala told Matangi Tonga the initiative also promotes a plastic free and greener environment throughout Tonga.
He said it is a way for youth to voice their concerns on the environment and climate change and “get the message across to leaders and the public in general”.
On Tongatapu, around 40 to 50 youth pick up rubbish twice a month in different areas and they stress there is a need to get rid of plastic from Tonga.
“If we’re picking up rubbish on the western side of Tongatapu, the youth in that area will help. If we’re on the eastern side, the youth in that area will help there. Then we take truck loads of rubbish to the Tapuhia tip that we have to pay for. It costs us $20 for each load,” he said.
Sopu is the worst area where they have collected plastic rubbish, especially near the Department of Fisheries, and also at Patangata, which resulted in almost three truckloads taken to Tapuhia.
He said since 2017, they have collected so much plastic at every site they have cleaned up but find there is still more plastic being littered now.
“It’s getting worse. We can see that over the years there’s more plastic and different kinds of plastic now. It’s a challenge for our green initiative.”
TNYC and youth groups maintain the areas where people litter the most. “Sometimes people will call us to help pick up rubbish in their communities. We then call the youth groups in those areas and organize a day to collect rubbish,” he said.
On Vava’u, Ha’apai and ‘Eua, the youth have a similar rubbish collection program. They also go to the outer smaller islands to pick up rubbish normally organized by town officers.
TNYC hopes the Tongan Government will do more to stop plastic pollution in Tonga.
“The Tongan Government should look at ways to recycle plastic somehow, rather than just getting rid of it. We are hoping to get the government to support us financially and support our initiatives and involve us with their policies like taking part in their awareness programs.”
TNYC has worked with the Department of Environment by providing the manpower on projects such as planting mangroves.
The Green Campaign is funded by the Canadian Government and Oxfam.