Pacific Islands Drowning in Trash

Many small island nations in the Pacific Ocean are slowly being smothered by trash, precipitating a crisis that has island enviros and politicians crying out for international assistance. The islands of Kiribati, for example, site of a bloody battle between U.S. and Japanese forces in World War II, are now covered in broken bottles, aluminum cans, and plastic bags with nowhere to go. Though island governments are struggling to open landfills, progress is slow, hampered both by the poverty common in the small states, whose populations have exploded in recent decades, and the slow-to-change habits of islanders accustomed to tossing trash on the ground or in the sea. “We urgently need access to effective and affordable technologies, including recycling equipment, before this issue of wastes becomes critical,” said Jagdish Koonjul, head of the Alliance of Small Island States, to a U.N. conference in March.