We can talk about issues and problems affecting us but if we fail to address them and find better solutions, and to ‘walk the talk’ then we are wasting our time debating and deliberating on these issues.

Vanuatu as a Pacific Island Nation has beaten the global community across the finishing line officially being the first nation in the World to legally ban the use of plastic straws.

Less than two weeks ago, the legislation to ban single plastic bags, polystyrene takeaway boxes and straws came into force.

There are many people in Vanuatu, organizations and businesses that have been instrumental in the call for the protection of our environment and their positive stand on the do-away of plastic bags. A heartfelt gratitude to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, for bulldozing the legislation locally and internationally, other partners such as Big Blue for its valuable contribution for combating Ocean trash especially plastic bags and all citizens and expats who have contributed in one way or another for the ban of plastic bags. You have been walking the talk, please continue to do so.

In Vanuatu, millions of plastic bags have been handed out by Supermarkets and shops every year. Plastic bags have long been identified as the cause of environmental damage and health problems: killing birds, animals and fish that mistook them for food, damaging agricultural land and polluting the environment.

Many countries around the world have taken minor steps to combat plastic bags. Fiji, a Melanesian brother introduced bag tax in a bid to safeguard the environment, tent cents charge per plastic bag with the aim to reduce plastic usage and waste.  Ireland, another European country also introduced bag tax, which ensures that customers have to buy bag, resulting in a 90 percent drop in their usage.

 Here the ban has put an end to the detrimental material and will likely rake in more benefits for the society in many different ways. Firstly, Vanuatu is a role model to take lead and walk the talk in this campaign, secondly the ban is an opportunity for us to help protect our planet and island paradise.

In the long-term, it will safeguard the taxpayers money that would have gone towards the plastic clean up. Lastly, it is an opportunity to strengthen and promote our sustainable cultural practices as we bring the use of traditional baskets to the frontline. This is something that we should start strategically thinking about and start working towards.

According to Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) the Pacific island region, our ocean is the largest in the world making up 98% ocean and 2% land. A global report released in 2015 shows that the Pacific contribution to the world marine plastic debris is less than 1% - 10% of which comes from Vanuatu.

It is with pride that we see SPREP working in collaboration with the Vanuatu Government and stakeholders to develop a national communications strategy which will be implemented together, to help bring about a clean, healthy and sustainable Vanuatu free of plastic bags, straws and polystyrene takeaway boxes.

Vanuatu’s stand to take the lead for a nation free of plastic will eventually trigger interest from regional and International organizations to help push the idea forward.

SPREP has already shown interest to walk the talk with Vanuatu to provide assistance with positive benefits that will come from these bans, benefits that will be reached not only by Vanuatu, but by the Pacific region as a whole.

Meanwhile, there are reports that smaller shops from within the outskirts of Port Vila are continuing the use of plastic bags since the legislative became effective.  There shouldn’t be any excuses to continue to use plastic bags or the economic effects of the ban because we don’t manufacture them locally.

We have taken the lead for the ban of plastic bags, straws and polystyrene takeaway boxes. The Tourism Sector has been incredibly proud and supports the idea as Victoria Maclean remarked, “I am incredibly proud of the stand the country has made to ban plastic bags. This will be crucial for the Tourism industry.”

When leaders walk the talk, the result is a cohesive social group that is better equipped to solve immediate and long-term problems. It is time for the Government to educate the public to achieve the benefits of the ban.

The government itself cannot implement the idea but it needs retailers, supermarkets, organizations and the citizens to work hand in hand to make the ban effective.  

Recently there was a post on Facebook about littering of plastic bags and other materials at the  Seafront. This shows the lack of respect on the new facility and beautiful environment we have there.

Vanuatu we have ‘addressed the problem’, now let’s ‘walk the talk’.

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