Thirty-three coral atolls and islands are dispersed among the three groups that form Kiribati, which are the Gilbert, Line, and Phoenix islands. Covering a land area of 810km2, the island groups are spread over a vast ocean area of approximately 3.5 million square kilometers in the Central Pacific Ocean.

An estimated 13 percent of the waste stream in Kiribati is comprised of plastic with recent studies indicating a plastic waste generation of 9.7 tonnes every day accumulating in landfills and the Kiribati environment. This amount is significant for small island developing states like Kiribati with limited resources, lack of capacity and minimal treatment options to dispose of such waste other than landfilling.

“Kiribati like other PSIDS, does not produce plastic and therefore we are at the downstream in the plastic lifecycle. Our remoteness makes the exportation of recyclable waste items too costly, and our limited land area hinders our ability to install suitable waste treatment facilities. The plastic waste that washes up on the beach daily is adding more pressure on the existing waste management system and infrastructure,” said Teema Biko, the Senior Hazardous & Chemical Waste Management Officer at the Kiribati government’s Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development.

The second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-2) was held in Paris, France last week.

Kiribati is one of 12 Pacific Islands engaging in the negotiations helping to amplify a One Pacific Voice for a Plastics Treaty reflective of our islands’ needs.

“Plastic pollution is a transboundary problem and we need an ambitious and comprehensive global treaty that covers the full lifecycle of plastic and promotes circular economy to support sound management of plastic wastes that is safe and isn’t harmful to the environment and human health,” said Biko.

“For a treaty to be effective, we should look at mandatory upstream measures.”

Plastic has been identified as top waste stream needing attention in the Kiribati Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy 2020-2030. National efforts to reduce plastic consumption and pollution includes the banning of the single use shopping bags, disposable nappies and ice block plastic bags.

“We have learned many lessons from our experience in banning single-use plastics and it is clear to us that no one state can solve this problem alone. It will take full responsibility and leadership from all of us for the future of our planet and our future generations,” he said.

The second Intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment took place in Paris France from 29 May to 02 June 2023.

The Pacific Islands are represented by the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu through the support of the Government of Australia and the United Nations.