The Vava’u Environmental Protection Association (VEPA) is a NGO based in Neiafu, Vava’u dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity, increasing community knowledge of environmental issues and securing sustainable livelihoods for future generations. VEPA operates a range of terrestrial and marine based projects to achieve this goal. VEPA recently collaborated with Ocean Ambassadors, working together on plastic pollution initiatives for Vava’u.
The goal of this project is to reach-out to communities and to develop a broader understanding about plastics and its impacts. Plastic pollution negatively affects local habitats and environments (land and sea) as well being toxic to humans and animals. Many Tongan’s are unaware that discarded plastics can kill animals and destroy habitats.
The project includes community outreach, plastic clean-ups with youth groups and communities and sorting plastics for repurpose. The aim of the project is to correlate data on the different types of plastics that are being imported and to find solutions to reduce and remove plastic pollution from Vava’u.
Community Awareness Events to Minimise Plastic Consumption
VEPA Staff and the Ocean Ambassadors team completed an awareness presentation to youth groups, schools and coastal communities which included some of the outer islands of Vava’u. The presentation was about introducing the impacts of plastics and ways to reduce plastics within the community.
Beach Clean-up Events
After the presentation, youth groups and community members participated in beach clean-ups events. Plastics collected were then sorted and weighed with a scale and data was recorded on quantity and type of plastic.
Plastic Shredder Machine
The Ocean Ambassadors donated a Plastic Shredder Machine to VEPA, the first of its kind in Tonga. Plastics are cleaned, sorted and prepared for shredding. The plastics are then fed into the machine which breaks them into flakes. The shredded products will be turned into new products, giving the plastic pollution a value and second life.
Finding solutions for reducing plastic
Reducing, reusing and recycling their household waste is being discussed, as well as providing practical examples of actions they can take to be more environmentally sustainable and manage waste in the outer islands.
The next phase is to bring in an injection machine as well as to continue the drive and effort shown during this intiative, as well as pushing for reductions and regulations for single-use plastics.
A massive thank you to the crew and volunteers from Ocean Ambassadors during the project and malo’aupito to the communities, youth groups and schools for committments to a sustainable future.