Suva Businesses Support Movement To Ban Plastic Bags

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Calls come as canoe crew recounts damage to ocean ecosystem

By Samisoni Nabilivalu

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 13, 2012) – The Suva Retailers Association (SRA) in Fiji is ready to help ease plastic bag pollution and is willing to adopt environmentally-friendly packaging methods for its members' customers.

SRA president Himmat Lodhia made the comments to The Fiji Times yesterday in the wake of calls from the Uto Ni Yalo crew urging Fiji citizens to become responsible for the ocean and ban the use of plastic bags.

"We have to be more responsible with how we use plastic bags. SRA members are willing to help raise awareness in their respective retail outlets," Mr. Lodhia said.

"We can put up posters, have our cashiers and attendants to remind customers to reuse or recycle plastic bags but we need to work together.

"We understand the long term impact of this issue. There needs to be encouragement from government and the environmental groups.

This will ensure our members inform their customers," he said.

Mr. Lodhia said plastic bags were one of the most common forms of rubbish and had been discussed at SRA meetings but no decisive action was taken.

"There has been some change. Some supermarkets are producing their own bags for customers and encouraging them to use these bags when shopping instead of plastic bags.

"These bags cost FJ$1 to FJ$2 [US$0.53 to US$1.07] and they carry the logo of the shops. These shops kill two birds with one stone — they advertise and they help save the environment."

With over 200 members, majority of whom issue plastic bags to customers everyday, Mr. Lodhia said the SRA was strategically positioned to influence public usage of plastic bags.

"If we don't work on this now, it will be a long term problem," Mr. Lodhia said.

Meanwhile, the Uto Ni Yalo captain Jonathan Smith, in an earlier interview said the crew had witnessed so much damage to the world's ocean.

"The trash we put into the ocean, from land or directly into the sea has a tremendous impact," Mr. Smith said.

[PIR editor’s note: University of the South Pacific professor and Econesian Society member Dr. Randolph Thaman says controls on specific plastic products are needed, and Fiji is in need of a plastic policy which offers alternatives. Lack of awareness among residents about how plastics can damage the environment, coupled with unenforced anti-litter laws are issues that Fiji needs to address, Thaman says.

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