22.04.2018 - Hilary Boyes has found a way to take her assignment with her on her morning run.

Hilary, who’s volunteering as a Solid Waste Management Coordination Adviser with infrastructure Cook Islands’ (ICI) Water and Sanitation Division (WATSAN), has started taking bags with her, to collect rubbish along the way.

Hilary Boyes

Hilary, plogging.

The practice, known as “plogging”, began in Sweden in 2016, and ICI have begun promoting it to encourage the local community to take part. Hilary started counting what she picked up a few weeks ago, and has so far collected over 750 pieces of rubbish.

Hilary has worked in waste management in Canada and Kiribati, and says that Rarotonga is pretty good when it comes to litter, but still needs improvement. To that end, together with ICI and WATSAN, she’s working on a number of new waste schemes:

  • Implementing a "container deposit" to create sustainable financing for waste management (adding a small additional cost on the price of products, which is partially refunded when the container is returned for recycling)
  • bringing a glass crusher onto the island to convert glass waste to sand for use in construction and municipal projects
  • using innovative ideas to use waste products already on island (oil drums, IBC crates etc) to make waste/recycling bins in public places 
  • heading out to some Pa Enua (outer islands) to try assist with their waste management
  • and assisting the community to make their own recycling bins using paint cans, seed drums, milk crates, flax baskets etc.
Cook Islands rubbish

Left: plastic lasts to infinity... and beyond. Right: Plogging is its own reward - Hilary found a wild passionfruit vine and someone's dropped cash.

Hilary has just secured funding from VSA partner The Tindall Foundation for this last project. The funding will go to designing and printing stickers, so households can reuse containers they already own as recycling bins instead of bringing more plastic bins to Rarotonga, that will ultimately need to be disposed of.

Meanwhile, Hilary’s new exercise regime was picked up by Cook Islands News , which will hopefully inspire more people to take part. Hilary told the News that the issue of rubbish, especially the build-up of plastic in our oceans, is a huge global problem that we can’t keep ignoring.

“We can all act at an individual level with our everyday choices and practices to prevent further plastic contamination of the ocean and our health.

“I love the ocean and I love Rarotonga. It’s my way of saying thanks for allowing me to be here and to swim in our gorgeous lagoon.”