Over 13 weeks, the schools – Koloale, Florence Young, Emmaus, Honiara Senior High School and St. Nicholas College tested interventions to reduce plastic waste generated during school lunch periods.
The schools trialed a refundable-fee scheme which involved lunch vendors or the school canteen serving lunches in reusable containers.
Under this scheme, students were refunded a small amount if they returned the containers after finishing their lunch.
A discount scheme was also introduced where students paid slightly less for lunch packs if they brought a reusable container from home.
“The School Re-thinking Plastic initiative is testing a new approach to waste management by providing an enabling environment for young people to take practical steps to replace single use plastic with reusable alternatives. Importantly, the initiative will provide the Government with valuable insights to address waste management in the country in the future,” said Berdi Berdiyev, Country Manager, UNDP Solomon Islands.
This week, the participating schools and stakeholders met to share information on how the trial was carried out, what went well, and what could be further improved.
In his opening remarks, the Under Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM), Chanel Iroi stated that, “We all know waste management is a really big issue.
“You would have seen with what you’ve been doing for the last few weeks in terms of this project on behavioural insights.
“You will understand what some of the challenges are in terms of waste management in the country.
“We’ve got issues in terms of how the behavior of a person relates to waste management.”
The schools have reported varying degrees of success during the implementation of this initiative.
James Lengi, Principal of Saint Nicholas Secondary School with a student roll of approximately 1,800, reported that, “Success for us is having kindergarten and primary students using lunch boxes. The vendors now use reusable plastic plates and containers.
“And we have observed a reduction in the number of takeaway plastic plates being used and the lunch boxes provided by UNDP were sold out.
“Moving forward, we recommend that a separate intervention program be designed for kindergarten/primary and secondary school students.”
Koloale School, represented by their careers teacher, Rebecca Eretoro, said the results for them was a reduction in the use of single use plastic compared to past practices and a cleaner school compound.
For lessons learnt, she said, “This waste management is very important because it also helps with healthy lifestyle.
“Too many plastics just lying around the place will introduce pests and diseases as well as disposable plastics when we use it over and over.
“They have chemicals that go in to food and when everyone eats the food it will stay in the body. Waste management is important for all of us we should work together and control this.”
For Year 10 student at Koloale, Kathleen Tusa, the initiative has brought out other concerning issues around the use of plastic in schools.
“I think the school canteen contributes a lot of rubbish to the school compound.
“When you walk around school you can see plastic noodles and other stuff that is being sold in the school canteen.
“The school canteen should reduce that and sell in different packets.”
Emmaus, with a primary school roll of 300, had a positive response from its students.
“We see students enjoying the lunch in those containers that UNDP has provided. They’re excited. It also cuts down the use of plastic.”
For Government, the feedback was well received as it works towards a national solution to waste management.
“This issue about behavior is what we need to really look at. Some of the issues, challenges that you faced will help us the national government to set up policies and strategies to tackle this issue,” Iroi said.
This innovation initiative is a partnership between the UN Development Program, the Solomon Islands Government and the Honiara City Council with support from the Government of Denmark through the UNDP Innovation Facility.