In Fiji, the plastic levy increased from 10 cents to 20 cents per bag on 1 July 2018. Studies or figures which track changes in consumer behaviour since July 2018 are not yet available. However, my personal observations at stores in Suva show that consumers are much more hesitant to buy plastic bags after the rise to 20 cents. They increasingly bring their own reusable shopping bags.
According to Fiji’s Minister of Economy, the island state aims to completely ban plastic bags by 2020. As reported by SPREP, plastic bag usage in Fiji has significantly reduced since 2010. However, there are still disastrous projections which estimate that there will be more plastic than fish in the Pacific Ocean by 2050. A recent SPREP study concludes that 97 percent of all fish species sampled in Fiji, Samoa, Rapa Nui and New Zealand had micro-plastics. This is 30 percent higher than the global average. For Fiji and other Pacific island states, where fish is one of the main protein source, this is of particular concern.
In the meantime, Fiji’s private sector becomes more engaged in the fight against plastic. This week, Raffe Hotels and Resorts announced that they will ban plastic straws across all properties in Fiji. By 10 October 2018, the group promised to replace all plastic straws with paper straws. Furthermore, straws will only be offered to guests upon request. The group operates the Fiji Gateway Hotel, the Plantation Island Resort and the Lomani Island Resort.
Some Cafes in Suva and other restaurants around the country already serve drinks with paper straws. However, straws often decompose after a short time. This is particularly a problem for fruit smoothies which seem to be popular among locals and tourists. So, why not stop using straws at all?