Kosrae on the world environment map

23 Jul 2010

“The project is very simple and easily replicable in other islands. It just needs a management who strongly believes in sustainable development,” says Maria Stephens, who as the logistic coordinator in the Kosrae Recycling Project, was recently nominated for the “Energy Globe World Award” in Rwanda.

The recycling project in Kosrae, one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia, is collecting waste and selling it as valuable raw material. It is a win-win situation for the island and its population, as it is creating jobs and at the same time managing waste.

“We are proud to lead the recycling activity in Kosrae. It is giving us more strength to face the hundreds of daily problems we have in conducting the activity on the island,” Maria says.

She coordinates the project together with the manager, Mark Stephens. They have been running the recycling activity in Kosrae since September 2007.

“Everyone wanted to know where Kosrae is”

Maria and Mark Stephens participated in the Energy globe award in Rwanda (Africa) in June and they are enthusiastic about leading an environment activity which is acknowledged internationally. More than 800 environmental projects from 105 nations were submitted for the “Energy Globe Award”.

“We had many congrats from the audience, the Rwanda Prime Minister, the Rwanda Minister of Environment, etc. Everybody was curious to know where Kosrae is!” says Maria. 

“Kosrae and the recycling activity” were selected as one of three nominees for the world award in the category Earth. The award was finally given to a reforestation project in Mauritius (Africa), but the nomination alone was an accomplishment for the recycling plant. 

“It was a great experience. For a very small island like Kosrae and a small project as our recycling activity, to be nominated together with such great personalities and countries was a great honour,” she adds.

Initiated by the UNDP

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), initiated parts of the Kosrae recycling project when funding the setup of the Materials Recycling Facility between March 2006 and November 2007. All the equipment was given to the people of Kosrae Island and the recycling plant has been running successfully since Maria and Mark took over the management three years ago.

“UNDP is pleased to see the continuation of this project and that the people of Kosrae are at the forefront of ensuring that this project benefits not only the company but also the whole community. It is a good example of how a small project can have a great impact on the livelihoods of the communities and the preservation of the environment,” UNDP Resident Representative at the Fiji Multi Country Office, Mr Knut Ostby says.

The potential for these types of projects is great in small developing states, as importation of recycle material such as aluminium cans, glass and plastic products, lead batteries and scrap metal is very high.

“A feasibility study for a recycling project was conducted in the Marshall Islands and the other states of FSM (Chuuk, Pohnpei and Yap) and there is potential for setting up a similar recycling mechanism with existing local recycling partners. Other small island developing states like Nauru and Tuvalu may also benefit from such projects,” Mr Ostby adds.

Similar projects created in the Pacific

UNDP is working with other NGOs and Governments to set up similar projects around the Pacific. Waste disposal is one of the biggest environmental treats in the Pacific, as huge amount of waste end up in the ocean threatening the livelihood of plants and species. UNDP are finding ways to improve this by for example working with governments to implement the Container Deposit Legislation (CDL).

CDLs are laws passed by a city, a state or a government that require a deposit on cans or plastic bottles so they can be collected when the beverage is sold. When the cans get returned the person that brings it to the recycling station gets the deposit back.

“In this way it is giving an income to the person who collects the waste as well as contributing to the beautification and the environment of the island,” Mr Ostby says.

He hopes that the international attention given to the recycling plant in Kosrae will inspire other Pacific countries to follow up with similar projects.

“The international community has opened up their eyes for the achievements made in Kosrae and I hope that neighboring countries will do the same. Through this project they are showing that it is possible to make money from waste and I hope that others will also discover the possibilities hidden in their trash cans,” Mr Ostby.