Plastics are found in all the world’s oceans – on remote shorelines, in coastal waters, in the seabeds of the deep oceans and even in uninhabited atolls and islands of the Pacific.

Without new and effective control measures, plastic production is set to double in 20 years and plastic waste leaking into the ocean is projected to triple by 2040.

The Pacific Islands contribute less than 1.3 percent of the global plastic pollution but are on the frontlines of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

The High Ambition Coalition to end plastic pollution is a group of like-minded countries working together to end plastic pollution by 2040.

The HAC was formed upon the adoption of a resolution the UN Environment Assembly passed in February 2022 to develop a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution including within our marine environment. The Cook Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia are two Pacific Islands Members of the HAC.

Their Pacific experiences were shared at a webinar hosted by the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) to End Plastic Pollution, co-chaired by Norway and Rwanda. This was held on the margins of the Pacific Regional Preparatory Workshop for the Second Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee.

“The region’s waste management and recycling systems are overwhelmed and do not have the capacity to effectively deal with the volumes of waste being generated. This is having a serious consequence on our environment and human health” said Halatoa Fua, Director of the Cook Islands National Environment Service while speaking at the Webinar.

Since 2012, the Cook Islands has had a single-use plastic regulation in place to guide their fight against plastic pollution, coupled with the promotion of the Reuse, Reduce and Recycle values. As the world moves towards a new global treaty, the Cook Islands which is a member of HAC, is accelerating efforts to combat plastic pollution in all phases of production, use and legacy.

“The Cook Islands aims to pass a new Solid and Hazardous Waste Bill this year which will include a new schedule of banned plastic items including plastic straws, polystyrene containers, single serve butter and spreads as well as products containing microbeads. This new bill will also introduce an advanced disposable recovery fee,” Fua added.

Close to 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the ocean annually. A main source of this is single-use plastics which are used to package something just once before being discarded.

“Pacific Island countries are not substantial producers of plastics but they do, however, import a wide range of consumables packaged in single-use plastics and are economically reliant upon industries that create high volumes of single-use plastic waste, such as tourism,” said Andrea Volentras, the Project Manager of the Pacific Ocean Litter Project (POLP) at SPREP.

“Almost every Pacific Island country has some sort of ban or regulation that is addressing plastic waste and has reduction mechanisms in place. But what we do here in the Pacific has very little impact globally, what we need is an ambitious global binding agreement that brings plastic production and consumption to sustainable levels,” said Volentras.