Plastics Circularity and Waste Management Workshop

Closing Remarks

June 29, 2022

Ni sa bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

It is not every day that we get to have a such a diverse group of participants as we have had over the past three days—from government to private sector, to CSOs, academia, youth, women groups, and the informal sector—working together to tackle a complex multidimensional problem such as the plastics crisis.

Plastics pollution is a menace on our society, it is a major threat to our Pacific Ocean and maritime resources, biodiversity, and coastal communities. There is no better time than now to pull our collective intelligence together to co-design and co-create innovative approaches to tackling the plastic crisis facing humanity, specifically in Fiji and broadly the Pacific.

It is not an easy feat to take on the plastics challenge, therefore I would like to take this time to thank each one of you here today for investing your valuable time, effort, expertise, and energy over the past 3 days in this workshop.

I have been informed by my colleagues of your active participation, and I must sincerely thank you all for this. It is this kind of sheer determination that can act as a catalyst to turning the plastics tide and will empower a shift to a more circular economy for plastics.

Climate change is the biggest threat to the security, livelihood, and wellbeing of Pacific people. And the production, use, and disposal of plastics are exacerbating the climate crisis. This is a real existential emergency, and dear friends we can no longer afford to work in silos.

Workshops as such are crucial for bringing together the right people, at the right time, to take forward ambitious interventions for curbing the plastics crisis.

As you would have read the knowledge product on plastics circularity and waste management launched by the Honorable Minister Reddy during the opening of this workshop, and as well as from the three days of engagement, it takes patience and time to understand everyone’s role in the system.

Once we are fully informed, then only are we in a better position to take complex problems such as the plastics crisis and put forward potential solutions more cohesively and effectively, playing on our respective strengths, and providing support for our limitations.

Creating a world without plastic pollution, may be a mammoth goal, but it is not impossible. In order to do this, we must radically alter the way we produce, consume and dispose of plastics.

Firstly, we must turn off the plastics tap from the source by transforming how we produce and consume plastics, taking into consideration the whole life cycle of plastic products, to ensure these can be circulated within a closed loop economy rather than turning into waste products.

We must then tap into innovative approaches to eliminate our overuse of toxic and single-use plastics, moving away from the linear take-make-waste model which is simply not sustainable and causing increasing pressure on our people and planet.

These early-stage approaches to a more circular economy for plastics will in turn take the pressure off our waste management systems which are currently overwhelmed and under resourced.

I am confident that the insights captured over the past 3 days will feed into an innovative and robust portfolio of interventions that will influence and support the transition to a more circular economy for plastics, here in our beautiful Fiji, as well as our wider Pacific community.

Let us continue to nurture the relationships formed here and work together to tackle the plastics crisis. A collective approach is crucial to ensuring any solutions we design, and implement is locally contextual, inclusive, and sustainable.

My team at UNDP, specifically our Accelerator Lab here in Fiji stands ready to provide with innovation support needed for your organization to test the experiments or your interventions on plastics circularity with you.

Remember dear friends, the contemporary problems of the world today cannot be solved with a silver bullet, nor with a solo approach.

Therefore, I would like to encourage you all to partner with the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji for your interventions on plastics and waste management, no matter how small or a bigger actor you are in the system, together we can help contribute to solve the plastics crisis.

At the same time, let us also recognize that while our footprint may be relatively insignificant, it is important to remember that local solutions can have global impacts, and those unusual stakeholders and the marginalized who often do not have a voice in development, may surprise you with their intellect and capabilities, therefore it is only imperative that we also provide them the space to contribute their acumens, ensuring that we leave no one behind when discussing development.

Invited guests, colleagues, and friends, I take this opportunity to thank you once again for your participation in the UNDP Plastics Circularity and Waste Management workshop, in partnership with the Ministry of Waterways & Environments.

Your contributions have been extremely valuable, and we look forward to continuing this engagement and movement for a more circular economy for plastics in Fiji and beyond. With these words, I officially declare this workshop close, and I invite you to a private dinner hosted by the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji later this evening at 7pm at the designated hotel area.

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.