December 16, 2021
Trash is everybody’s business. Over the last few months in this column, the Universal Garbage Collection (UGC) Task Force has listed the many ways that the improper disposal of garbage affects our homes, health, safety, and environment. However, before we even begin to tackle the solutions for these issues, we must take our first step as a community – accepting the fact that garbage is everyone’s concern.
As a consumer society, we are all responsible for our environment. We must do our part to keep our lands and surrounding waters clean for our people and the generations to follow. Accepting this responsibility isn’t always easy. Mariana Islands Nature Alliance (MINA) conducted multiple surveys over the years about why people litter, and the answers are not surprising. They are consistent with the idea that “someone” will come in after they’re gone to clean up the mess. Unfortunately, for many years and even today, this mindset is still prevalent in our community.
An important key to changing this behavior is understanding that the proposed Universal Garbage Collection program can transform the Marianas into a truly pristine home for our residents and destination for our visitors. The absence of litter along our shores and inside our villages will go far in creating a desirable destination. The UGC system will support this by providing facilities that will make waste disposal convenient and efficient, and therefore reinforce good habits in our community. When we invite someone into our homes, we clean in preparation. In the same way, we must clean up our islands as we invite our visitors to enjoy our home and rebuild our tourism economy.
We also do not have to wait for the full execution of the UGC program. Today, we can all make practical and conscious changes in how we treat waste disposal in our homes and when we are out enjoying our beaches and parks.
One of MINA’s programs is “Adopt a Bin” with recycling bins placed at public parks and beach fronts. While many beachgoers make good use of these bins and place their recyclable items in the appropriate receptacles, there is a disheartening number of instances that we see reported in the news every Monday about litter everywhere. MINA’s Rangers spend countless hours every week maintaining these bins and collecting household trash that gets dumped alongside them. If it weren’t for the dedicated volunteers such as Max Aguon and his team who come in to clean up after people, their mess would end up in the ocean.
The Saipan Mayor’s Office is doing a tremendous job of keeping our major roadways clean and free of litter, as is the Department of Parks and Recreation. BECQ and MINA’s Tasi Watch Rangers do monthly beach cleanups with youth and civic organizations, but the question remains: why is garbage so carelessly tossed aside?
MINA’s mission is “Empowering Communities for Conservation,” and if we begin engaging in the proper management of waste disposal and recycling now, we can make a difference. With the implementation of the Universal Garbage Collection program, the Marianas can become a top-tier destination to visit and call home.
By Roberta Guerrero, Guest Columnist
Roberta Guerrero is the Executive Director of the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance. A proud resident of Saipan with a heart for volunteerism, Roberta passionately serves the Marianas to preserve and protect the islands’ environment for generations to follow.