Waste management a priority concern for Tonga
Changing mindsets around waste management is a major focal point of environmental conservation efforts in Tonga.
Changing mindsets around waste management is a major focal point of conservation efforts in Tonga.
A government programme on Tongatapu is working with communities to try and clean up their surroundings and improve their waste disposal habits.
A project coordinator in charge of the Fangauta Lagoon area says an initial clean up last year collected more than 40 tonnes of metal, plastics and other non-biodegradable waste.
Ta'hirih Hokafonu says land activities are having a serious effect on the health of the lagoon which she says has changed colour over the last decade from a pristine blue to a muddy green.
TA'HIRIH HOKAFONU: So we had done the first phase of clean up from last year, this was only on the worst part identified in the lagoon and we collected 47.2 tonnes of waste, not yet picking up the garbage from the actual sea from the coastal area and that is the second phase happening this year.
KOROI HAWKINS: And so is it a matter of changing attitudes or just not having locations for proper waste disposal or what is it?
TH: We have location of proper waste disposal available it is a matter of changing attitudes and there is a lot of awareness programmes promoted by the projects and through collaboration of other projects on media so that communities protection about the significance of keeping a healthy environment could be manifested in your daily activities. Now what is happening the old ways of how, because Tongans in the past we were using organic materials like leaves for plates and those things so the disposable nature of just throwing it to the garbage heap on the side will decompose but doing that with plastic and metal like consumable goods does not work in the same way. And people just tend to prefer that their home environment is clean. But behind them does not need to be seen where they dump all their garbage. So it is just a matter of changing attitudes and we are changing that habit by trying to put out more media information out there like the youth are playing a part in doing songs and TV ads for the project about the significance of looking after and proper disposal of waste. There is also many artistic expressions of the youth in poster designs and poetry that they have done with regards to raise more awareness. So the younger generation seems to get it but the older generation that is the one that needs to, a lot more consultation is needed to change the mindset.
KH: And you said 47.2 tonnes of waste was collected from the lagoon not the beaches, how did you collect that much waste?
TH: This was from the homes from each of the 26 villages through the collaboration of the district officers and the town officers - these are the leaders of the community. They called their communities to clean up only the worst areas, this is not all of the community areas just the worst areas from that they picked it up on the land. The efforts of this year they will be cleaning up from the beach. So from the beach area so this was picked up from the land and a lot of it were metal, garbage so that the communities could not dispose because they were heavy and they did not have the tools to drag it to where it should be but sort of just left behind their homes and the bush area.
KH: And where did you take it all to?
TH: We took it to the waste disposal here at Tapuhia who also advised to take it to the geo-recycling. They take all the metals and recycled it there and while the non-recyclable garbage goes to Tapuhia Landfill. And so pretty much when there is close collaboration between the various institutions the communities and the individuals living in these communities. We wish to see that the changing mindset would be manifested in the daily actions. Although the efforts of the institutions and the international organisation providing the funds would come to fruition when the individuals and the communities put into practice their understanding of conservation of their environment.
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