Measuring the impact of Pacific holidays

04 Apr, 2019
Dr Jeff Seadon

Our Pacific neighbours offer tourists idyllic experiences in tropical locales, but inadequate waste management is having a detrimental effect on the environment according to a UN report written by Dr Jeff Seadon from the School of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences.

Jeff's latest report for the UN Environment Programme - Small Island Developing States: Waste Management Outlook - investigates waste management in island states across the Atlantic, Indian, Mediterranean Oceans, the South China Sea region and the Carribean, as well as the Pacific.

"Waste management affects all aspects of society such as public health, the economy, industry, environment, climate change and disasters," Jeff writes in the report.

"Small Island Developing States (SIDS) waste management-related issues are not uncommon within global trends - however their locations and environmental sensitivity often intensify the impacts of waste, creating complicated situations that require innovation, collaboration and regional solutions."

The report explores the opportunities for improving recycling and reducing illegal disposal - such as how developed island states like New Zealand can offer leadership and expertise in developing local solutions - and the impact of tourism on waste.

"Compared to the average 2.5 kg of waste generated by a local every day, a tourist typically generates more than 7 kg of waste," Jeff explains.

"Much of the waste is then burnt, buried in illegal landfills or dumped. Roughly 80% of litter ends up in the oceans."

SIDS Waste Management Outlook presents evidence of the environmental impact of sub-par waste management, and offers proposals for how SIDS can move from "dumping societies" to "circular economies" focused on effective waste management.

"The promotion of resource efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, delivery of basic services to all, and green and suitable jobs will provide a better quality of life for residents," Jeff writes.

This report is Jeff's third for the UN Environment Programme. His other publications are Guidelines for Framework Legislation for Integrated Waste Management (sole author) and Asia Waste Management Outlook (one of 3 authors).

The full report, as well as a summary document with key points, is available to download from the UN's International Environmental Technology Centre website.

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