Hazardous waste is particularly difficult for islands to manage. They are governed by a number of international and regional treaties that authorise and monitor the flow of hazardous waste throughout the world. The ongoing production of hazardous waste such as E-waste, used motor oil, lead acid batteries and electronic batteries require safe and sustainable management on an island. We travelled to New Zealnd and Tahiti first to find out how those countries managed wastes on their islands, and then piloted several projects in Easter Island.
Easter Island Hazardous Waste Pilot
Tahiti has an excellent system for managing used car batteries, used motor oil and batteries used in electronic devices.This is the system we took to Easter Island and which we are promoting in the Pacific. See the Easter Island Operation here.
Compostable Baby Nappies
Disposable baby nappies represent a waste management problem and threat to fresh water sources across the Pacific region. In looking for a viable alternative, PAA successfully trialed Australian designed Eenees compostable baby nappies in the Islands of Palau, Samoa, Easter Island, Kiribati and
Tahiti, producing a short clip of the trial. See the trial here
Lead-Acid Battery Recycling
Lead-acid batteries are imported into the Pacific Islands and are widely used in cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, tractors and a range of other mechanical equipment requiring power, including solar energy systems. Their disposal remains a problem largely due to the paper work required to export them. Lead-acid batteries contain sulphuric acid and large amounts of lead. The acid is extremely
corrosive and is also a good carrier for soluble lead and lead particulate. Exposure to excessive levels of lead can cause brain damage; affect a child’s growth; damage kidneys; impair hearing; and lead to numerous other associated problems. This is a serious issue in the islands where the storage of lead-acid batteries is far from adequate with the used batteries usually in direct contact with the ground, hence potentially, ground water. Although the acid can be cleaned and reused, the lead is the valuable component in the battery to be recovered by Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs). The appropriate controls are often not taken by Pacific Island recyclers, thus putting themselves and their environment at risk of contamination. PAA has consulted widely on best approaches to management on island, including the Australian Refined Alloys lead acid battery recycling facility in Alexandria, Sydney, Sims Metals in Australia and Auckland City Council, the Tahitian Waste Management Department, SPREP, as part of our ongoing cooperation to address these pressing environmental issues in the Islands. Most of the batteries recycled here come from the Australian market but a small amount does come from the Pacific Islands. More than 300-400 tonnes of lead-acid batteries are permitted through the Waigani Convention permitting process to enter Australia for recycling, although the full quota may not have been met for various often organisational reasons.
Research Report: Legal Requirements for the Exportation of E-Waste from the Pacific Islands
The use of electronic devices has increased rapidly in recent decades and the disposal of electronic devices such as music centres and computer games has become a major problem in the world including in PICTs which have commonly suffered from generous donations of obsolete computers from developed donor nations. The average lifespan of a personal computer is decreasing rapidly - from four to six years in 1997 to only two years in 2005. For this reason, the rate of personal computer obsolescence now exceeds the rate of production. Hence e-waste is one of the fastest growing waste types in our society and the issue is a global problem and it is a special problem on Small Island
Developing States with limited landfill space and no capacity to process the equipment at the end of its short island life.
E-waste is of major concern due to several significant issues, including the increasing rate and volume of materials disposed to landfill. The toxicity of some of the materials present in this type of waste product, the variability in regulatory control on disposal methods, and the relatively common practice of transferring e-waste components offshore to recycling facilities that may lack adequate quality control are some of the main issues. Environmental protection and safety standards is a big problem in the islands and poses a threat to the health of islanders. Toxic components of e-waste include mercury, lead, cadmium and polychlorinated biphenols. Cathode ray tubes are one of the major sources of lead in the municipal solid waste stream. Brominated-flame retardants such as polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers used in computer equipment are both occupational and environmental health hazards. Exporting e-waste to Australia for processing involves the application of four principle international conventions, among others, as well as national legislation: the Basel Convention, the Waigana Convention, the Stockholm Convention and the Rotterdam Convention. There is precedent for exporting hazardous waste from the Pacific Islands to Australia. Between 2003 and Dec 2008, the AusAID-funded program saw Australia
importing persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to Queensland for incineration. Thanks to an AusAID funded POPs program, the legal complications around the exportation of e-waste and other hazardous waste will be minimised as the required competent authorities are already in place in most concerned islands. Read the Report here.