It’s the dawn of a new era in Solomon Islands as the country officially gazetted a regulation to ban certain types of single-use plastics.

Starting from 01 September, the import, manufacture, distribution, supply and sale of plastic shopping bags, plastic straws, cups, plates and cutleries, polystyrene takeaway products and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles for drinking water that can contain less than 1.5 litres is prohibited.

The efforts are part of the Australian government-funded Pacific Ocean Litter Project (POLP) which through the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is supporting the development of the national plastics regulation and the ‘Greening of the 2023 Pacific Games’ initiative which aims to ensure the Games in Honiara is plastic-free.

The enforcement of the ban follows months of extensive consultations and public awareness campaigns led by the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM) to inform, engage and receive feedback from key stakeholders including importers, manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and retailers.

“This is a small but important step towards securing a cleaner, healthier future for our country. By eliminating single-use plastics, we are demonstrating our commitment to the well-being of our environment, economy, and people,” said the Permanent Secretary of MECDM, Melchior Mataki.

“It has taken us several years to get here, we have worked on it diligently and also with a lot of concentration over the past 12 months under the leadership of the Environment and Conservation Division and of course with the support of partners, including the POLP project, which has been very instrumental in allowing us to get the technical working group set up to have them drive the development of the regulation,” added Dr Mataki.

A grace period of six months has been given to manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers to use up their current stockpile while importers who had placed their orders prior to the signing and gazetting of the regulation are also exempted. The six-month grace period will lapse on 01 March 2024.

“During this period, importers must provide proof of order if required by authorities for verification. After the lapse of the grace period penalties will apply,” he added.

Dr Mataki highlighted the commitment from the private sector and other key partners who contributed to assessing the scale of the plastic problem in the country and offered useful insights that helped in the drafting of the instructions.

“I must say that we did not really face much difficulties. I think the private sector themselves are very attuned to the idea of improving environmental management in the country and that has been very helpful and made the job less challenging because the private sector understands and know the rationale of having this ban in place and will be a key partner in driving the local economy towards more sustainable practices,” he said.

“We are hopeful that this transition will spur innovation and collaboration and we encourage all local businesses to offer biodegradable bags, reusable containers, and compostable cutlery to allow consumers to make responsible choices that contribute to the reduction of plastic waste.”

The Director of the Waste Management and Pollution Control Division at SPREP, Anthony Talouli congratulated the Government and people of the Solomon Islands on this important milestone.

“This is a culmination of years of hard work and genuine collaboration between various partners and stakeholders united in our efforts to get rid of the scourge of plastic that is now a plague and a major concern for all of us,” said Talouli.

“We are excited about these developments and look forward to working closely with the government in the next two months to implement the Greening of the 2023 Pacific Games activities in Honiara to help make the games clean, green and plastic-free,” he said.