The mothers of Vanuatu will shoulder the Pacific island nation’s dream of a pristine future with the recent announcement of a ban on disposable diapers. Despite backlash by parents in the country of about 250,000 people, the government announced that a ban will roll out by the end of the year.
Vanuatu is believed to be the first country in the world to prohibit disposable diapers and has one of the strictest bans on single-use plastics, including plates, cups, drink stirrers, egg cartons, plastic flowers and food containers.
Although the government admits it was a difficult decision that will disproportionately impact mothers, ministers argue that they had no choice. The low-lying islands of Vanuatu are already drowning in plastic pollution and the rising sea levels.
“Vanuatu is safeguarding its future,” said Mike Masauvakalo, Minister of Foreign Affairs. “Eventually, plastics find their way into the water and the food chain and at the end of the day, the people of Vanuatu end up consuming [them].”
A study by the Commonwealth Litter Program indicated that compostable waste and disposable diapers constituted nearly 75 percent of all plastic waste in the country. So, in addition to composting programs, a ban on diapers was an obvious target.
“It is a long road ahead,” Masauvakalo said. “But knowing my country, we will work it out. Vanuatu is very vocal about the climate emergency. It is visible, we are living it. It is affecting our food supply and our fish populations.”
Thomas Maes from the Commonwealth Litter Programme said, “Although Pacific islands produce a fraction of the waste of other countries, bad waste management practices may be contributing to the problem of microplastics in the oceans.”
Meanwhile, in the U.K., the outcry was so vocal after a government official mentioned banning disposable diapers that he was forced to retract his mere suggestion.
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