Vanuatu bans plastic bags and polystyrene containers

Vanuatu bans plastic bags and polystyrene containers

By Laura Chalk  January 18th, 2018

The Vanuatu government is the first country in the Pacific to establish a National Oceans Policy, with the aim of better managing the ocean and resources for present and future generations.


The Vanuatu government is the first country in the Pacific to establish a National Oceans Policy, with the aim of better managing the ocean and resources for present and future generations.

Come February, it will go one step further, banning the importation of non-biodegradable plastic bags & polystyrene take away containers, with its sights set on eventually becoming completely plastic free.

This announcement comes after around 2,000 people signed a petition supporting legislation to ban single use plastic bags on the Islands.

The ban will be a part of the country’s wider ocean policy, says Toney Tevi, head of Maritime and Ocean Affairs within Vanuatu’s Foreign Ministry.

This holistic approach to ocean protection is one other countries can follow, as plastic becomes one of the biggest scourges on aquatic life.

“We all agreed after national consultation that Vanuatu’s ocean has to be clean for generations to come, and to keep the ocean clean of plastic was one of the major concerns,” Mr Tevi explained in an interview with ABC News

Mr Tevi’s words indicate a foresight much needed as the world grapples with our plastic addiction and the marine litter that ensues. Another person looking at the present and future state of plastic waste is Christina Shaw, the CEO and founder of the Vanuatu Environmental Science Society.

Ms Shaw has been overseeing a clean-up in Port Vila over the past three years to reveal how much plastic waste has accumulated in the country’s capital. She says that while everyone acknowledges there’s a little bit, “you don’t realise how much until you count it and say ‘look, these are thousands of plastic bags that we picked up over this week’.”

A challenge for the near future, Ms Shaw says, is making it economically viable to recycle plastic products, which currently isn’t the case in the remote pacific nation.

“Some plastic bottles are recyclable but currently the cost of shipping them out to somewhere that will buy them is too expensive.”

Polystyrene containers will be included in the ban; which Ms Shaw is happy about. Of the 1000 takeaway containers collected last year, 641 we made of polystyrene foam.

Ralph Regenvanu, the Minister in Charge of Foreign Affairs, said the Government will aim to ban other plastic products too, including plastic cutlery and straws. 

Another move would be to consider new ways to dispose of plastic bottles, Mr Regenvanu said, which would require suppliers to buy them back after use.

Vanuatu is proving to be a leader in environmental protection, not only in the pacific but the greater world. The small island nation has already committed to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals 2015 – 2030 which is to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.”

Positive Action

  • Join the movement to Take 3 for the Sea, or as much rubbish as you can collect. Remembering to take our rubbish with us when visiting waterways and all natural environments prevents plastic from entering rivers and oceans.
  • Reduce plastic consumption by purchasing alternatives, such as Onya’s reusable produce bags, or the many non-plastic items in the Biome store.


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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.



By Laura Chalk

Laura joined Planet Ark in 2016. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience having travelled the world and a background in teaching English as a second language among other things.

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