Are you curious about what you can recycle in Samoa?
We don’t have the big recycling options that major population centres have, but we can recycle some things, and we have some fantastic local resources and options to reduce our waste!
Pacific Recycles Co. accepts #1 (PET) plastic, which is the most common type of clear plastic used for things like water bottles. Different types of plastic are treated in different ways. Unfortunately, no other types of plastic except for #1 can be recycled in Samoa. On most pieces of plastic, you can look at the bottom or somewhere on the label for a triangular symbol with a number. It looks like this:
Bottling companies will buy back glass bottles of their product — so you get money back for your Coke product (e.g. Fanta, Sprite), Vailima, Manutagi, Taula and Taxi bottles! Ask at your local shop if they will accept your recyclables.
If you do not have tap water that is acceptable for drinking, either 6L or 20 L water bottles can be cleaned and refilled at the many water-purification centres around Apia. For many of us, the tap water is acceptable to drink, or can be used after passing through a ceramic filtration unit, or being boiled. A home filtration unit can cost a bit to start, but you’ll save both money and plastic over time. Having a rain water tank installed is also a great way of ensuring you have safe drinking water. You may need to flush your system occasionally and clean out your gutter.
Senese Inclusive Education recycles their own paper to produce cardstock. If you’re looking for beautiful paper sheets as well as cards, check them out! It’s worth asking them if they can accept your paper to recycle, although they have a very small operation.
Many common waste items, like Styrofoam, crisp packets and plastic clingfilm, cannot be recycled. One of the biggest practical challenges for recycling operations is actually one each of us can help solve: we need to keep the bins sorted as requested. Tossing Styrofoam or bags into an aluminium can recycling bin just makes a big mess and a headache for the recycling staff.
When you do throw things away, try to keep hazardous material like broken glass or small batteries in sealed small bags (or one of those non-recyclable milk cartons). The workers sorting rubbish at the tip are at risk from sharp or acidic items in the waste.
If you have unused medications, return them to a pharmacy or your doctor’s office for safe disposal.
What about food wastes? Almost half of the “waste” that clogs up the landfill is food scraps and other biodegradable material that isn’t actually waste at all! From moldy bread to eggshells, you can make compost with basically any food items except for dairy and meat bones. You can also put in torn up paper as long as it is unwaxed and uncoated. Using a container with a lid, burying the food scraps, or using a wire “keyhole” garden will keep pests out of your compost.
Composting is a fantastic option to re-use organic (biodegradable) wastes and support beautiful Samoan gardens. You can use old pizza boxes, newspapers or plain paper to kill grass and start a new garden bed, layering your food scraps and yard clippings on top to make compost for healthy soil to grow tasty fruits and vegetables. There are local support groups and training available – check out Mafaufauga on Facebook. Burning yard wastes is illegal now in Samoa, so composting is a great way to get rid of them, and benefit too.
And finally, ask around! Maybe your neighbor can use glass jars with lids for yummy chutney or jam. Maybe a friend can use plastic bottles with lids to sell their coconut cream, oil, or se’e. What is waste to you might be a resource for someone else.
A healthy environment means healthy people.
We’ve all heard of the damage that waste, especially plastic, can do to marine life and to many plants and animals on land too. On islands like Samoa, litter goes into the ocean so quickly, and can hurt the fish and other animals that many of us here depend on, as well as taking away from Samoa’s beauty. Reducing waste is the best option. More waste means more land that has to be used just to hold our rubbish.
Doing what we can to make less waste, and to get that waste safely into the landfill, helps all of us, from Samoa to the sea.
Check out Waste Free Samoa on Facebook for more tips and inspiration, and to share your own ideas.
Thank you for doing your part!
Tips for business owners:
Save some money, help the environment, and boost your image by making some simple changes.
- Try offering choices – “Would you like a straw with that?” or “Do you need a bag today?”
- Used coffee grounds or tea leaves are great plant food (the caffeine keeps the snails away!)
- Set all printers and staff computers to automatically print double-sided, and switch to e-copies as much as possible.
- Join the growing group of businesses asking their customers to take part, like asking them to bring in their own cup or bottle to refill, or bring in their own shopping bag
Tips for when you go shopping:
- Shop local when possible, buying local is almost always more environmentally friendly than buying items from overseas
- Take your own reusable bag, saying no to a bag means one less item to throw away
- Look at the packaging of items before you buy, take a moment to read the bottom of the package: what kind of plastic is it? Is it recyclable, compostable or reusable?
- Say no to a straw when ordering a drink
- Take your own cup for coffee or drinks – some cafes will even give you a discount!
The Five R’s:
5) Rot the rest!