Miriama Uluiviti Taukiei is working towards an innovative plastic waste tax and a complete single-use plastic ban with the Department of Waste Management in Tuvalu. Tuvalu is an atoll nation of limited landmass, making waste and plastic management very difficult. The waste tax will ensure producers contribute to the removal of all the plastic waste they import.
Tell us about yourself, and your work.
My name is Miriama Uluiviti Taukiei, I’m 32 years old, married and have 3 handsome boys. I am the Waste Operational Officer on Funafuti. I deal with the waste operations for the whole of Tuvalu – Funafuti and the outer island. I design waste plans, and manage waste collection, recycling, composting, and mechanical maintenance.
How is plastic waste an issue for oceans/waterways in Tuvalu?
The plastic problem is a big issue in Tuvalu. Plastics are consumed by all living things in the ocean and that affects the food chain and sometimes we find fish and turtles that have died from the plastics they have consumed.
Since we don’t have a well-operated landfill, the plastics from our dump site sometimes blow out into the ocean. We are working towards plans and ideas to rehabilitate the dump site to better compact and bury all our waste.
Last year we organized a program for children to paddle to an islet to do a cleanup campaign and we collected 25 bags of JUST plastic bottles and bags.
We could just keep doing clean up campaigns on the islands to remove waste – but at the dump site there is a lack of equipment, a lack of land and a lack of topsoil to cover the waste. So this is a huge issue. We are trying to battle this issue and we have a lot of work to do to find a solution to this.
What solutions are you working towards in Tuvalu?
Plastic is one of the fastest growing threats to our oceans. Since marine pollution originates on land this requires a solution that will focus on the plastic life cycle, so we need to emphasize this problem and get it solved as soon as possible - the best way to do that is through the single-use plastic ban.
Our single use plastic ban is currently with the Attorney General and before August we should have banned all single use plastic coming into the country.
We’re also working on a waste tax, meaning every item that comes into the country will have a tax attached to it that will be used at the end of the life of the item to take it from Tuvalu to wherever it can be recycled.
The department is also working on a recycling station, clean up campaigns on the islands to remove waste with students, youths and communities, and we are leading awareness and education programs in schools that show the effects of not handling plastic waste properly.