Mone Lapao’o works with the Waste Management & Pollution Control Division within Tonga’s Department of Environment. He is leading work to reduce plastic waste impacting the coasts and waters of Tonga through education, policy advice and reform, and all-hands-on-deck efforts to clean up trash.
In Tonga we are very proud of our oceans – we are after all an Island nation – and the ocean and our waters hold great significance for us. This is the biggest reason why we need to look after our oceans. It starts with keeping them clean and healthy.
The main sources of waste here are littering and illegal dumping, especially along coastal areas. Any plastic waste that enters our waterways ultimately flows to the ocean, where it breaks down and enters the food chain as microplastic are consumed by marine life, including endangered species.
Recent reports have exposed the threat of plastic waste from domestic and international sources, including to nations like ours. From my experience, it’s clear that the fight begins at home – tackling the sources of plastic pollution within our own borders.
When did you first get involved in trying to address this issue / make a change?
I first got involved in waste management in 2011, as a member of the team leading a community-level program supported through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). In 2014, I joined the Department of Environment under a similar program but one with a broader national reach.