Plastics Circularity and Waste Management Workshop

June 27, 2022

Honorable Minister, Dr. Mahendra Reddy

Invited guests, members of media, and workshop participants

Ni sa Bula Vinaka and a very good morning.

Today, plastics have become an integral part of our everyday lives.

From healthcare to agriculture, education to fisheries, plastics is seen in every essential sector that exists today. 

So much so, that it is even found in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. 

The surge in use of non-essential and single-use plastics has created a global plastics menace, with catastrophic consequences on human and environmental health.

The plastics industry is quickly becoming one of the highest sources of industrial greenhouse gases, making plastics a major contributor to the climate crisis. Greenhouse gases are emitted at every stage of the plastic lifecycle, from its production to its transportation, manufacturing, and disposal. 

In the year 2019 alone, Plastic production and incineration resulted in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the emissions from 189 coal power plants.  Plastic pollution is a threat to crucial ecosystems. These plastics contain toxic chemical substances that have been associated with serious health problems such as hormone-related cancers, infertility, and neurodevelopment disorders.

There is now abundant scientifically research evidence available that tells us that micro and nano plastics are entering our food chains, in particular food that we derive from our rivers, seas, and oceans. 

With fossil fuel companies investing heavily into plastic production, you would be shocked to know that more than 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced annually, and this number is expected to double by 2040.  And even more shocking to note is that up to 13 million tonnes of plastic waste spills into the ocean annually, killing more than a 100 thousand marine animals each year, just from plastic ingestion or entanglement. 

And more recently, early progress to curb the plastic pollution crisis has faced major setback after the increased surged of single-use plastics during COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Pacific Region, the vast increase in marine plastic pollution is disproportionately impacting socially vulnerable groups, such as women and children in coastal communities, the urban poor and informal waste pickers.  

The global plastics crisis can have serious implications on the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is a multifaceted, complex challenge that cannot be solved by a single discipline. We must apply a whole system, integrated approach to tackle the plastics crisis. 

Stakeholders across the entire plastics value chain each play crucial roles in addressing the plastics challenge and we must all work together if we are to guarantee sustainable development and safeguard human and planetary health. 

The United Nations Development Programme envisions a world free of plastic pollution, and in working towards this vision aims to work with partners to achieve three ambitious targets by 2030 in the plastics space—that is 100 countries with improved plastics regulations and implementation, 100 cities and islands with effective plastic waste management plans and plastic-use reduction strategies, and 100 million people mobilized to take action on plastic pollution. 

To achieve these ambitious goals, the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji will work with governments, private sector, consumers, civil society, academia and research institutes, and the media and the influencers. By taking an inclusive and whole system approach, the UNDP aims to support interventions in the areas of policies and regulations, innovation and technology, waste management systems, capacity development, knowledge management, communications, and networking. 

This Plastics Circularity Systemic Design Workshop by the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Fiji is the starting point of bringing together a variety of stakeholders across the plastics value chain, from grassroots to policy influencers, to create a better understanding of the plastics environment in Fiji and the Pacific. 

The UNDP Accelerator Labs, found in 93 countries across the globe represent UNDP’s new strategy and thinking in relation to development and advocating for bolder innovation. The Accelerator Lab in Fiji address the following questions:

  • How do we better tackle complex and fast-moving “frontier challenges” in the Pacific region?
  • How do we find the most relevant solutions that work locally? And;
  • How do we learn more quickly about what works and what doesn’t?

Honorable Minister, I am very pleased to inform you, that today in this room we have participants from various walks of life, from the very grassroots level who help keeping our environments neat, clean and tidy by collecting plastics, to the those in the very top positions who are decision makers, influencers of policy and much more, including those that are underrepresented and are marginalized, only in the quest that we leave no one behind when we discuss development.

I am delighted to also inform you Honorable Minister that almost half of the participants in this workshop today are women - women who have fought the fight to curb this plastic problem not only in Fiji but around the Pacific region; women who are influencers and decision makers, women who walk the talk - they are in these room today.

By fostering crucial conversations, knowledge sharing and generating innovative ideas we hope to inform, co-design, and co-test a robust and inclusive portfolio of interventions for a more circular economy for plastics in Fiji, as a deep demonstration site.

Honorable Minister with these words, let me take this opportunity to invite you to the podium to deliver your opening remarks.