December 10, 2021
Trash. It’s everywhere – along our beaches, buried underneath the soil, in our ocean, and illegally dumped in various parts of the islands. It is unsightly, unhealthy, and threatens our environment and natural resources.
We know something must be done about this issue, and a reliable universal garbage collection (UGC) system is what the CNMI needs right now. This idea has been discussed for years and several legislative terms, and I’m glad to see the CNMI take the steps in forming a task force that is fully committed to focusing on this solution. A reliable UGC program will surely alleviate the issue of trash throughout our community and in private and public spaces.
A major benefit of UGC is that our trash will be picked up from our homes. There won’t be regular visits to the transfer station or landfill. Hopefully, we can see an end to illegal dumping sites.
It is our responsibility to properly dispose of our trash – for the overall health of our community and our environment.
When I was in Scotland for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the garbage collectors went on strike. Garbage collector unions – comprising over 1,000 workers – went on strike for eight days. They were protesting due to a lack of respect from management, low wages, and poor working conditions.
According to reports by the New York Times and other sources, many garbage collectors in Glasgow earn between $25,000-$27,000 per year, yet these wages have not kept up with the pace of waste production in the city. Especially during this pandemic, there has been a surge in waste due to takeout and online food deliveries. Trash receptacles have been swamped, thus becoming ideal homes for pests such as rats. It’s common to see rats attack garbage collectors, and there are instances when garbage collectors were sent to outpatient clinics for treatment due to injuries.
The result of the strike was evident – garbage bins were visibly overflowing at every street in the city. Currently, the unions and city officials are in talks to discuss what improvements can be made. However, the unions have mentioned their intention to resume the strikes leading up to the Christmas and New Year holidays if their demands for higher wages and others are not met.
This strike highlights the growing disconnection between major governments, communities, and workers around the realities of trash, not just in Scotland but around the world and in the Marianas, too.
The Universal Garbage Collection Task Force aims to bridge this gap and offer a solution that works for all of us. As Chairwoman of the Natural Resources Committee, an environmental advocate, and a daughter of the Marianas, I am extremely supportive of this effort. I encourage our people to learn more about it, support this initiative, and take part in making this happen for our islands and our people.
By Rep. Sheila J. Babauta, Guest Author
Rep. Sheila J. Babauta serves as a member of the 22nd CNMI Legislature and holds key leadership positions in the Natural and Cultural Resources Committee, Education Committee, and the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation. She is a passionate advocate for the responsible management of the Marianas’ natural resources and improving the quality of life for all.