Historically the story of international transfers of toxic waste has not been a happy one.
The tendency has been for industrialised countries to ship waste to less developed nations where it is either dumped, often illegally, or manually broken down for recycling with no regard given to the health and safety of workers.
Now, Australia’s largest and most experienced recycler of mercury-containing waste, Ecocycle, is partnering with Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) world-class waste and environmental services company Total Waste Management (TWM) to reverse this situation.
With appropriate licenses from the environment protection agencies in both countries, Ecocycle will take mercury-containing waste collected by TWM, primarily fluorescent lighting, and process it in its state-of-the-art facilities in Melbourne.
In the longer term, the plan is for Ecocycle to install a lighting recycling plant in Port Moresby, PNG. Ecocycle will also provide training, with the plant to be operated by TWM.
Ecocycle’s Business Development Manager Daryl Moyle said managing mercury waste was a growing priority in the Pacific Islands region, and PNG was just the first step in Ecocycle’s plans for the region.
“With the support of TWM we hope to increase awareness of this toxic substance, its impact on the environment and how we can all protect these often small and vulnerable islands by implementing simple but important recycling solutions,” he said.
In 2015, a sub-regional workshop on the Minamata Convention, aimed at supporting Pacific Islands in the early ratification and implementation of the convention, was held in Samoa. Topics discussed at the workshop included the levels of mercury in Pacific fish, and the need for adequate institutional and border controls to manage mercury.
The PNG government is also active in running awareness campaigns about mercury pollution and the Minamata Convention at home, and taking a leading role on the issue in the Pacific region.