Stuart Cowell

Stuart Cowell


Pacific Ocean litter project

Henderson Island is a wakeup call for us all.

Reported last year, the island is one of the world’s most remote and uninhabited, part of the Pitcairn group, but with the dubious honour of also having the world’s most polluted beaches.

I have been thinking about Henderson Island a lot following a week in Apia, Samoa.

The Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), supported by the Australian Government, are beginning a Pacific Ocean Litter Project, aimed at reducing the prevalence of single-use plastics across 14 countries.

Bags, straws, take-away containers, PET bottles – these are the items most commonly found by the beach clean-up and monitoring teams as they work through the region. And these are the items the project is aiming to reduce.

As can often be the case, although we met in a wonderful part of the world, and my first time into Samoa, we spent our days working through the complexities of this problem in a small board room of a local hotel, immune to the clear blue skies, refreshing rains, and azure waters.

It turns out that, like weeds and feral animals, the pervasiveness of single-use plastics is driven not entirely by a shadowy global conspiracy, rather by their sheer utility and ‘fit-for-purpose-ness’. The project’s challenge is to refuse, replace, recycle or return a set of products that are ubiquitous.

And maybe one day Henderson Island will be known instead for its natural beauty.

Apia Habour

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