New incinerators to help manage Tokelau’s waste problem

Apia, Samoa – 07 July 2020: An incinerator may not be a big deal in general. But when you’re a tiny, remote and vulnerable atoll all on your own out in the vast Pacific Ocean with a growing waste problem, an incinerator can actually make a world of difference.

Waste disposal is an increasing issue for Tokelau as the shortage of land area for rubbish dumps and the often limited technical and financial capacity to manage waste issues cannot deal with the mounting volume of waste. Population on the atolls also have waste streams that are becoming a critical concern, such as plastics, e-waste and health care waste. Add to that its remoteness and limited transportation routes (only two to three boat trips a month to Apia – the only port of entry), Tokelau has a major problem on its hands.

That’s where the incinerators come in. Each of Tokelau’s three atolls – Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo – receives an incinerator to help manage this waste problem. The first incinerator was presented to the Taupulega of Nukunonu on June 23rd 2020 by the Director of Environment, Mr. Mika Perez.

One-of-three-incinerators-for-Tokelau
One of three incinerators for Tokelau.

“We acknowledge the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) for its kind contribution to managing Tokelau’s waste problem,” said Mr Perez.

“We express our gratitude to Tokelau’s Department of Economic Development, Natural Resources and Environment (EDNRE) for being at the forefront of national coordination efforts to manage Tokelau’s waste issues, and responding well to the village’s growing waste challenges,” said Mr. Pio Tuia, an elder of the Taupulega.

The incinerators for Fakaofo and Atafu will be presented pending shipment from Apia.

The incinerators and relevant equipment were procured under the USD 150,000 Waste Management Project for Tokelau, funded by UNDP’s Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP). This follows a UNDP study that found the absence of a systematic and effective waste management of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste on Tokelau has led to the contamination of the lagoon resulting in coral bleaching and causing the decline of fish species.

The Project also contributed to developing institutional mechanisms and building technical capacities in waste management. The Aumaga community-based organization in Tokelau implemented the project, in close partnership with the Department of Economic Development, Natural Resources and Environment.

“UNDP is pleased to partner with Tokelau to improve the management of its waste disposal as this directly affects the livelihood of its people and its already fragile environment,” said UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Jorn Sorensen.

The incinerators were officially handed over by Mr. Sorensen to the Tokelau Government today, via the Public Service Commissioner, Mr. Tiso Fiaola, in a brief ceremony at the Tokelau office in Apia earlier today.

“These incinerators will help greatly in alleviating Tokelau’s waste problem. We are grateful to be able to manage this with the help of UNDP and SGP,” said Mr. Fiaola.

UNDP-staff
Staff of the Tokelau Office in Apia with UNDP Resident Representative and Small Grants Programme Coordinator and Tokelau Public Service Commissioner at the handover in Apia this week.

The incinerators can burn up to 300 kilos of rubbish a day, including medical and biosecurity waste. The ash from the burnt waste will be used as fertilizer and other agricultural purposes.

Under the project, incinerator training for waste management staff will also be carried out, in the areas of workplace health and safety training, and waste sorting.

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