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Resolving the Marianas’ trash issues will require cooperative effort

Friday, October 8, 2021

Last weekend, empty beer bottles and bags of food were left on one of the benches at Micro Beach. This disappointing sight, along with other incidents of people carelessly leaving their trash for someone else to pick up, is a common occurrence.

The Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers (GCEA) has spent considerable time discussing this long-standing garbage issue in The Marianas and how our government can take strategic steps to resolve the problem. Along with fellow GCEA members, I supported the recommendation for Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres to establish a task force that can take the lead in addressing waste management issues in The Marianas.

On Sept. 28, Gov. Torres signed Executive Order No. 2021-21, creating the Universal Garbage Collection Taskforce. The group is made up of representatives from government, environment, business sectors, and private citizens. We have been given 90 days to produce a report with solutions for how to tackle the trash problems that have plagued our community for ages.

The new Universal Garbage Collection task force will take a holistic approach to create sustainable solutions for Rota, Tinian, Saipan, and the Northern Islands. The initial goal will be to establish a house-to-house collection service, which will have a major impact on litter and illegal dumping in our community. It will then be tied into a larger waste management plan that will address other areas of the waste disposal stream.

Littering is linked to a variety of environmental, economic, and health issues that can disrupt a community’s good health and quality of life. It is vital to protect the health and safety of our community and visitors for generations to come.

Community support required

Garbage is everyone’s problem, and it will take the support of our entire community to resolve our trash issues.

The task force will begin its work immediately to gather input from residents, village leaders, lawmakers, businesses, environmental groups, and other stakeholders. It will be a challenge to draft a full plan in 90 days, but the task force will do its best to produce a stepwise plan to move this game-changing initiative forward quickly.

The task force will look at all pathways to achieve the result of house-to-house garbage collection and reduce the amount of garbage deposited in the landfills. We will look at recycling, waste to energy, and any other innovative methods that can provide viable solutions for our environment.

There will be a cost to this effort, but I am positive that with adequate discussions and inputs from our stakeholders, we can produce an affordable consumer rate that will make the universal garbage collection work without overly burdening our community.

No time to waste

It is a shared responsibility to have an affordable and efficient waste management system. This means that our entire community must come together in this effort to make our home cleaner, healthier, and economically sound.

In an era of rapid urbanization and population growth, solid waste management is critical for sustainable, healthy, and inclusive cities and communities. If immediate action isn’t taken, our islands will continue on a dangerous path to overwhelming pollution. Lives, livelihoods, and the environment would pay an even higher price than they are today.

Together We Can improve the quality of life in the Marianas for generations to come.

For more information about GCEA’s Universal Garbage Collection initiative, visit the GCEA website at Engage with GCEA on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or email your feedback to

By Gary Sword, Guest Columnist

Gary Sword is the Vice President of the KKMP Radio Station, one of the most popular and beloved stations in the Marianas. He leads KKMP’s commitment to serve the Marianas with briefings and programs for a healthier, happier, more culturally connected, and well-informed community. He has also served as a senior management of the American Samoa Power Authority, and has extensive experience in power, water, waste water, and solid waste services. As a key leader in the community, he serves as a member of the Domestic Policy Recovery Committee for the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers, an advisory council for Gov. Torres and Lt. Gov. Palacios. The GCEA’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the Marianas for all residents.

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