Rendy Solomon works as an Environmental Health Officer at the Ministry of Health, Solomon Islands. Based in Gizo, in Solomon Islands’ picturesque Western Province, Rendy is also Founder and Chairwoman of PlasticWise Gizo, an initiative to educate communities on waste management that also turns plastic waste into colorful handicrafts.
How did Plastic Wise Gizo begin?
In 2014, I was given the opportunity to study environmental education for three months in Japan, and I came back passionate about working with communities to improve waste management. But it was challenging, as the budgets in the Ministry were not large enough to sustain the activities.
It wasn’t until 2017 that I was speaking to a woman who wanted to clean the beaches, and I thought: this is where I can help. We started as a small group; cleaning the beach, collecting the plastics, mosquito nets and all waste that had come in from the sea.
Soon we were organizing more activities – including school projects on waste disposal, radio programs on waste separation and compost, dance competitions and participation in World Oceans Day. We collaborated with other passionate people, building more activities, more fundraising and more awareness, all the time promoting the message that we need to clean up Gizo.
How did you come up with the idea to turn plastics into handicrafts?
Well, we collected plastics and waste all across the beaches but we didn’t know what to do with it all! We needed creative ideas. We had more and more women coming in, helping organize the fundraising activities, and sometimes they’d say: ‘Oh I made this bag, this purse, this fan…’ and so forth. We realized there might be a creative solution.
Now in Gizo we go to the women’s church groups and village communities and run awareness talks; not just on cleaning up, but also what to do with the plastics. Women can sell the handicrafts they make from plastics to tourists from the cruise ships. It not only provides an income, but also awareness of the plastic problem we are facing.