Plastic Bag Ban: Vanuatu Takes Measures to Look After Its Ocean

By James Burke

The South Pacific Ocean nation of Vanuatu has banned unrecyclable plastic bags and polystyrene takeaway boxes in a bid to address growing pollution concerns affecting the island nation’s surrounding waters.

As of next month, Vanuatu will ban the importation and local manufacturing of non-biodegradable plastics, reported The Vanuatu Independent.

Polystyrene takeaway boxes used for food are also covered by the ban which comes into effect Jan. 31.

The ban follows a July 2017 announcement by the country’s leader Prime Minister Charlot Salwai that the government would ban unrecyclable plastic bags and bottles.

It also comes on the heels of an environmental field study report which confirmed that plastic waste is harmfully polluting the ocean waters around the island nation which has a population of 80,000 citizens.

The ban is the first step by the government in improving waste management for 2018. Additional steps to further reduce maritime litter, such as how deal with plastic bottles, are expected to follow.

The government will support the public in its switch away from plastic bags to the use of more traditional baskets.

Companies have been given a six month’s grace period to use up their unrecyclable plastic bags and polystyrene takeaway boxes that they may have in stock.

Looking After the Oceans

Vanuatu’s maritime jurisdiction comprises 98 percent of the nation and the health of its surrounding ocean is vital for its survival. Vanuatu is the first Pacific nation to establish a national oceans policy aimed at improving the management of its surrounding waters and its resources, reported The Vanuatu Independent

“The ocean is a natural and dynamic bridge that connects continents to continents and oceanic islands to islands. It is also a bridge between the living and the dead and between people and the marine resources upon which they rely. It is the bridge of life,” says the Vanuatu National Policy.

“Our ancestors used the sea as a passageway to move from their place of origin to where we are today. From their voyage in the sea they learned and believed that there exists a God of the sun, a God of the wind and a God of the Sea – our God,” it says. “When they arrived safely to our shores they gave thanks and revered the sea as a sacred place. They built their livelihoods around it and finally established a culture of the ocean. A culture that protects and respects the God of the ocean.”

“In this Modern age, people have access to advanced technology and use it to explore and exploit the ocean and its resources more and more effectively and efficiently. The population of the modern age is also growing and the global and local demand to further explore and exploit the ocean resources is very high,” it says.

Global Issue

The Environmental Investigation Agency rates marine plastic pollution “as one of the most serious emerging threats to the health of oceans and is now considered a major hazard to marine biodiversity.”

The agency says that more than five trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world’s oceans and causing damage throughout the food chain.


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