FAQs Returned Volunteers



Waste Management in Vanuatu

Published on 28th December 2015

Volunteer Mary O’Reilly has worked with local Waste Management Officer Gina Buletare to set up recycling station in Luganville, Vanuatu


Vanuatu vignette photo

Waste Management Officer Gina Bulatare and VSA volunteer Mary O’Reilly



In the four years since VSA volunteers have worked on waste management with the Sanma Provincial Council & Luganville Municipal Council, there have been radical changes: a stop to landfill burning, followed by a fines system for people who burn rubbish at home, as burning plastics caused health and environmental problems.


Volunteer Mary O’Reilly has worked with local Waste Management Officer Gina Buletare to set up recycling stations, and the town market now boasts a compost bin.


Importantly, the waste service now has its own budget line: previously, money needed came out of one Council pot, so if a rubbish truck needed repairs, often the funds were simply not available. Now, Gina says, they manage their own funds, so can keep the operation running smoothly, and there are three trucks, up from one in 2013.


Gina and Mary’s challenge this year was a prepaid rubbish bag collection scheme. Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, has tried it, “but it didn’t work”, Gina says, and she and Mary did a lot of work to understand why.


They rolled out the scheme in Luganville in February 2015, after extensive outreach to schools, tourism operators and the rest of the community. Convincing people to pay for a service that was previously free was a hurdle but, says Gina, the message has got through that the service isn’t covered by property taxes and there are significant health, environmental and economic reasons for ensuring the town is clean and tidy. Uptake of the “red bag” service is 94%.


The Luganville Waste Management Plan is timelined until 2050, with plans to create a new landfill and close the existing one by 2020. Mary’s assignment ended in June 2015, and she left Gina fully trained to carry on running the programme.


Mary points out that this has all been achieved against a backdrop of severe political instability. Despite this, waste management in the region has seen a complete overhaul, with recommendations from their experience taken into Vanuatu’s national waste management plan. Mary says:


“We operated on a transparency and no surprises policy and we have been well-supported by the political arms of both organisations.”


1 Comment

  • Grant Ertel on 11th January

    Having been in the waste management and recycling industry in NZ for many years I would like to compliment your volunteers and supporters for their work so far. I was fortunate enough to be in Port Vila for a short time last year, and naturally my eyes swung to the litter, refuse disposal and recycling "opportunities". My only comment is that a clean and green is very marketable in the world these days. Tourism dollars would be earned by helping to ensure visitors want to return, not just because of the wonderful people and the majesty that is Vanuatu, but because they are potentially a refuge from the rest of the worlds tumble into chaos.

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