25 Jun Samoa bans plastic – so then what?

The news that Samoa will ban single-use plastic and straws in 2019 is certainly good news for the environment and a no-brainer for helping our ocean. But it does raise certain questions, like how will this ban be enforced? Will retailers be fined or prosecuted if they continue using single-use plastic bags? Will the ban apply to plastic packaging for goods and produce? What are some realistic alternatives? And most importantly, are our people ready to embrace a plastic ban?

The most common way that most of us use plastic bags, is when we go shopping. Whether you’re buying two apa elegi at Frankie’s or some kalo at the market, our purchase is put into a handy plastic bag. What will Frankie’s and the taro farmer use next year?

A trip to the Sunday market will reveal the SWAG stall  where you are offered a woven coconut leaf basket to put your purchases into. The ato is green, environmentally friendly and they look great. But while an ato may make sense for the taro farmer, are they a realistic alternative for a supermaket chain like Frankie’s? Will there be new job openings for ato weavers perhaps? Or will we see instead the mass import of thousands of cheap machine-woven bags from overseas?

The reusable bag – usually cloth – is the preferred choice in many overseas countries with the environmentally conscious. People carry assorted bags with them wherever they go, ready to put their shopping in. They are convenient and a sensible way to cut our reliance on plastic bags. It does require a shift in our thinking though. I own multiple reusable shopping bags…that are sitting in my house doing nothing useful…because I always forget to take them with me when I go to town. A ban could be the way to FORCE people like me to actually put the reusable bags to use!

But then, I confess that I’ve been grocery shopping with a obsessed anti-plastic bag control freakperson who lectured me about putting my faakau into a plastic bag. All the way out the door of the shop, she went on-and-on at me about the ocean and the fish and the floating rubbish and DONT YOU KNOW THAT PLASTIC BAGS ARE KILLING OUR EARTH?!  Did she succeed in making me stop using plastic bags? No. I got musu and refused to use the reusable bag she offered me as a gift. Because I’m stubborn and fiapoto and I don’t like being told what to do… Which of course is stupid of me because I’m only shooting myself in the foot because I live on this planet (and it’s plastic-choked ocean) too.

How about straws? Are you going to make yourself a bamboo straw for the next time you want to drink a niu? Or will you buy a metal straw that you carry in your purse everywhere you go? Maybe a straw is something that we really dont need? They are useful when you’re sick in hospital and cant sit up properly to drink. But for most of us, a straw is not a NECESSITY. You can drink your niu without one. Again, a shift in thinking is required.

Which brings me to the crux of the issue. We all agree that plastic is bad and we need to reduce our usage. A legislated ban seeks to do just that. But at the end of the day, it comes down to each of us, being willing to make that change and take that little bit of responsibility for our plastic footprint on this earth.

And putting aside our fiapoto and our stubbornness and USING THE DAMN REUSABLE BAG!

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