Every Choice Counts
Every Choice Counts

Map of Norfolk Island showing the beach locations where Headstone's ocean outfall of waste has been quantified.

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Every Choice Counts
Every Choice Counts

Waste Management Centre 'General Waste' bay. This bay was empty an hour prior to this image being taken.

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Start Small, Think Big
Start Small, Think Big

Tiny Norfolk Island as seen from uninhabited Phillip Island. Our small size is our vulnerability, but also our strength.

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Every Choice Counts
Every Choice Counts

Map of Norfolk Island showing the beach locations where Headstone's ocean outfall of waste has been quantified.

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BIG SAF 

In the Norf'k language, big saf literally means big surf or high tide. Metaphorically, the Islanders will use the words 

big saf in reference to a situation that has escalated into conflict. How do we play our part in calming down the situation?

The Norfolk waste system has experienced big saf due to operational problems, individual behaviours, and waste removal difficulties due to the island's isolation. The Norfolk Island Waste Management Centre lacks the resource base that Australian councils have, and management costs are substantially higher due to the exportation of waste through air freight or infrequent shipping. Around 2000 Norfolk residents on an island 5x8km in size, pay an approximate $1.4 million annually to fly their waste to Australia - a cost that far outweighs the financial capacity of the community. Norfolk Island pays as much as $2,228 to dispose of 1 tonne of household waste. To compare, the Port Macquarie Council in Australia pays approximately $240 to dispose of the same weight of waste. Currently, Norfolk's isolation comes with an expensive price tag.

The Norfolk Island Regional Council pays for three plane loads a month to export Norfolk’s waste offshore, with 66% of this waste going to landfill. In a recent waste study, Monash University found that 50% in weight of Norfolk’s exported rubbish comprised of food scraps and disposable nappies. The Norfolk council could save more than $500,000 a year simply by eliminating these two waste streams, and reduce the waste export by one plane load a month. To help eliminate this unnecessary cost to the community, the Norfolk Wave joined forces with the Waste Management Centre to create a Residential Waste Guide for effective waste sorting, and soon the local school kids will headline a series of educational films for the community.

A survey run in early 2021 uncovered that only 6% of Norfolk households and 14% of businesses were sure of what happened to their waste once delivered to the Waste Management Centre. Those statistics are changing as the Norfolk Island community becomes more aware of its waste, and behaviours are changing. On Bounty Day each year, the Norfolk community celebrates the arrival of their ancestors from Pitcairn Island, in an event that cumulates in a massive community picnic. The Norfolk Wave filmed the Bounty Day picnic in 2021 and were shocked at the prolific commercial and private use of single-use plastics during the event. In 2022, the major tour operators have pledged to use only compostable packaging for Bounty Day, and all their tours, and the wider Norfolk community are also willing to take up the challenge. The tides are changing!

Prior to November 2021, all waste that couldn't be exported was burnt and tipped into the sea at Headstone Tip. Through public pressure and policy change, Headstone Tip became closed to the public - a huge milestone for the Norfolk Island community! The most noticeable change to Norfolk's environment has been a significant reduction in beach rubbish, and we can be certain that our ocean creatures and coral systems are benefiting immensely. Unfortunately, the Waste Management Centre are still dumping our glass waste into the sea, as they cannot stockpile the glass due to the potential for sugary substances to attract pests such as Argentine ants. 

Currently at the Waste Management Centre, there is a very large stockpile of rubbish that awaits disposal. Just six months ago this pile of rubbish would have been burnt and tipped into the sea. It may look like we have solved one problem and created another - however, there are plans in the pipeline to dismantle this waste stream and recycle it where possible. The wooden pallets for example, can be made into valuable biochar, and some plastic materials can be used to create concrete aggregate or remoulded to create fence posts. With a Circular Economy hat on, the possibilities are quite exciting for the Norfolk community!

By the end of 2022, the Norfolk Wave campaign will provide an educational film for incoming visitors to the island, have a Norfolk Wave accreditation system for commercial businesses, commission an ocean-inspired community sculpture by a local artist and create Norfolk's first dramatic short film in the local language. There is still so much work to be done, though if we all continue to Miekduu (Be Resourceful), Mainaut (Be Mindful) and Miekhies (Act Now) - Norfolk Island could truely lead the way forward.