Ending plastic waste on islands

The Dutch company Searious Business and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are taking action against the increasing heaps of plastic waste on islands. The partners are jointly launching the "Plastic-Waste-Free Islands" initiative. Searious Business, which codeveloped the plan, wants to make participating islands virtually waste-free in two years; the company is committed to realize systemic change. This partnership received support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), with an injection of over six million euros.

Huge impact
Searious Business and IUCN are developing effective strategies through collaboration with the island nations of St Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa. In order for the changes to have a major impact, the first step is to work with local fisheries, governments, waste processing companies and representatives of the tourism sector to draw up an action plan. Effective strategies differ from island to island. “Think of tourists receiving only one bottle during their stay, with easy ways to refill it. Another approach might be replacing the mini bottles of shampoo in hotels and spas with dispensers. In this way, we intend to reduce plastic waste by 80 per cent," said Willemijn Peeters, CEO of Searious Business.

According to Peeters, a value chain designed to be waste-free is of vital importance so people can continue enjoying stunning beaches and pristine seas. Idyllic islands currently attract loads of tourists who all have to eat and drink imported, packed food. “But on islands, there is often insufficient waste infrastructure and no space, so 90 per cent of plastic waste ends up in the environment. The use of disposable plastic is growing whilst the processing industry doesn’t invest in islands because they can’t realize economies of scale. We want to prevent islands from turning into major landfills in the future."

Successful measures can then be implemented on other islands - and even on the mainland. Peeters: “Islands represent a closed economy on a small scale, so you can quite accurately determine the consequences of systemic changes. Best practices can ultimately also be applied on the mainland. This also makes the initiative a playground for large companies that want to test disruptive innovations.”

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