Atafu, Tokelau – Waste management efforts in Tokelau took another leap forward this week with the official handover of critical safety gear and equipment for waste collection and segregation of recyclables. The equipment has arrived in Tokelau and have been divided amongst the three atolls. Atafu and Nukunonu have already received one 20-foot shipping container each to segregate and store recyclable waste, while Fakaofo is due to receive two containers for its two villages.
In the absence of recycling and re-processing facilities in Tokelau due to limited land space and technical capacity, recyclable waste streams have traditionally been assembled for export to Samoa under the Waste Management Memorandum of Understanding between the Governments of Samoa and Tokelau. With the temporary closure of Samoa’s borders, including to Tokelau’s waste imports due to the global COVID-19 State of Emergency in effect, Tokelau’s waste continues to accumulate in the three atolls. This has created an opportunity for Tokelau to turn challenges into opportunities to “build back better”, creating stronger and more robust systems in-country to sustainably manage waste, hence the need for storage containers and other gear.
The equipment were provided under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP’s) Circular Economy for the Recovery of Waste (CERO Waste) 18-month programme for Samoa and Tokelau. UNDP is partnering with the Department of Economic Development, Natural Resources and Environment (EDNRE) of the Government of Tokelau for this project, which supports EDNRE with USD$40,000 worth of infrastructural (shipping containers as waste segregation and storage units, jumbo bags, litter-picking tongs and other equipment), labour (targeting youth employment in Tokelau) and technical capacity for waste collection and segregation, as well as awareness-raising activities, including Atafu's Environment Week 2020, and banners.
The Atafu Environment Week celebration kickstarted the CERO Waste Programme. The four-day event included waste clean-ups on inshore waters, coastal and land areas by two rival sport teams, Puamelo and Peletania, and led by the atoll’s waste champions. Traditionally, the two social sports teams meet to compete in a game of “kiliti” (Tokelau version of English cricket) to commemorate the festive season and village holidays, but the local council decided to use these teams comprising of over 90 members to take part in a different type of competition – to clean up the village of Atafu of solid wastes. More than five tonnes of waste in total were collected by the two competing teams, the bulk of which were construction material like iron roofing and steel rods. The inshore marine coastal areas were littered with empty beer bottles believed to have been washed to the lagoons during the tropical cyclones of 1987, 1990, 1991 and 2005 through inundation caused by waves.
More than 200 people (approximately 140 men and 100 women) plus school children, participated in the Environment Week clean-up operation. “I am pleased with the way the village of Atafu responded positively to the call for a village clean-up. The daily high turn-out by locals for the clean-up is a positive indication that they are now conscious of the negative impacts of waste on the natural environment if left unchecked,” said EDNRE Director, Mika Perez.
--- Article text goes here ---All schools across the three atolls engaged in a school poster competition under the Environment Week’s theme, ‘Nurture and Protect our Environment’, with the winner of each school having their poster replicated as a mural on each atoll’s waste depot containers.
UNDP officially handed over the equipment today to EDNRE in a brief ceremony held at the Tokelau Liaison Office in Apia.
“UNDP is committed to continue supporting the development of an effective and efficient waste management sector in Tokelau, building on the recent introduction of waste incinerators by the Global Environment Facility and UNDP’s Small Grants Programme. The CERO Waste Programme is another avenue for UNDP to respond to the urgent need to build local infrastructural, labour and technical capacity in waste collection and segregation,” said UNDP Resident Representative, Jorn Sorensen.
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