Monday, January 21, 2008

Lapisi Pt. IV

Samoan BioBag

So I have been posting a lot about trash in Sāmoa and how much it confuses me (see previous trash posts here, here and here). I have been pretty critical of the way waste is managed around here, so I thought I would talk about a couple of trash-related things that are pretty awesome.

The first is the Sāmoan Bio Bags. The information printed on some bags states:

1. To protect Samoa’s environment and give young generation a better future, please use [sic] Biodegradable Bag.

2. Main Material: Starch-Rich Source from Crops.

3. Non toxic, Soft touch, Good air permeability.

4. No toxic fume (Dioxin) will be released when burning.

5. Please avoid sharp objects.

Other bags also say:

• Non-toxic and void of strange smell.

• Starts decompose after 180 days under the soil with need of oxygen and inducement.

• To protect beautiful Samoa, please use Biodegradable Platic Bag.

Pretty awesome, no? I appreciate the efforts of the country to replace the ubiquitous plastic bag we see all over the States with these biodegradable, non-toxic alternatives. Also, I appreciate the efforts to educated the public about the benefits of these bags by printing the information on them. Most of the faleola ([fah-lay oh-low-ah] store) that I have been to use these bags and so do a lot of the shops in Apia. Unfortunately, the three bigger grocery stores in town that we go to do not use them.

It got me thinking though, why aren’t we using something like this in the States. Why do all the grocery stores and the Wal-Marts still use plastic bags? They are horrible for the environment and there appears to be an alternative out there. On that front, I think that Sāmoa is a step ahead of the States.

Something else that Cale pointed out is the fluorescent lights. All of the lights in our house are fluorescent. All of the lights in our host family’s house were fluorescent. In fact, when I try to think about a time that I was in the presence of non-fluorescent lights, I cannot. Sure, they give everything a harsh, clinical feel, but they way more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs.

Cale is planning on creating some sort of tissue paper diffuser shade for the lights in our house. At first he wanted to make his own rice paper, since there is plenty of rice here. He has since discovered that rice paper is made out of the rice plant and not the rice itself. However, he is thinking about trying to make coconut paper now.

Finally, there are some good things about waste management here in Sāmoa. The community we live in has waste pickup, as do many other communities. It is less likely to be found in the rural communities, since they are farther out and the community has to pay for the service. Where we live there are cutoff oil-drum halves attached to poles (to keep them off the ground and away from the dogs) out on the side of the road. We just take our trash to the end of the driveway and drop it in the bin.

Also, Sāmoa apparently has a pretty advanced, cutting-edge landfill that was rehabbed with the help of JICA (like Peace Corps, but from Japan). I found a PDF online that outlines all of the work that was done:

“The Tafaigata landfill in Upolu, Samoa, has been transformed from a messy, smelly dump to a clean and fresh semi-aerobic landfill structure using the Fukuoka method, now the standard method of landfill in Japan. The transformation process was funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), at a cost of only US$400,000 (consultant supervisor not included).

Transformation took place in two phases. The first one was setting up waste cell bunds, consolidating the soil “floor”, installing the air ventilation / leachate collection pipes, a leachate collection pond, and all-weather access roads. The second phase included setting up the leachate treatment facilities. When completed in December 2005, the project was handed over from JICA to the Samoan Government’s Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Meteorology (MNREM).”

I don’t have a reliable source on this information, but someone told me that the landfill should have enough room to handle all of Sāmoa’s trash for the next century. However, don’t quote me on that one.

Anyway, there are some good, trash-related things happening here in Sāmoa. It isn’t all gloom and doom.

— Sara


annette said...

horray for samoa!! they are certainly ahead of US on the plastic bag thing. there must not be alot of money in it or US would be doing it!!
too bad. we do recycle plastic trash bags for i have taken to bringing my own cloth bag in a store, never missing an opportunity to try to educate the checkout person on the need to clean up our earty!! usually met with a smile and some sort of time an angry cashier started quoting me the bible...hmmmm, did not go well.
again, congrats to samoa, i am impressed!!

Teresa said...

So on the news last night that Whole Foods is phasing out all plastic bags and only using paper or cloth bags. Also, I heard that both Wild Oats in Indianapolis are being bought by Whole Foods! Maybe I will switch to a grocery store that doesn't smell like rotton broccoli