(EPA) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the 2021 National Recycling Strategy to tackle recycling challenges facing the nation and to create a stronger, more resilient, and cost-effective municipal solid waste recycling system. This year, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has overhauled its Zero Waste and Solid Waste plans and infrastructure to create a more resilient and sustainable environment.

“Our nation’s recycling system is in need of critical improvements to better serve the American people. EPA’s National Recycling Strategy provides a roadmap to address system challenges and pave the way for the future of recycling,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “As we move forward with this strategy, EPA is committed to ensuring that historically underserved and overburdened communities share in the benefits that our work will deliver. Together with the historic investments in recycling from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the strategy will help transform recycling and solid waste management across the country while creating jobs and strengthening our economy.”

During the next few months, EPA will work collaboratively with stakeholders to develop a plan to implement the 2021 Strategy. EPA will collaborate with communities, local, state, federal, and Tribal partners, and with public and private stakeholders to achieve the strategy’s ambitious goals. EPA looks forward to supporting state and local agencies who are on the ground solving these issues.

This year the CNMI has taken major steps to work with EPA through Typhoon Yutu recovery grants to develop Zero Waste and Solid Waste plans and infrastructure. In responding to Typhoon Yutu with a circular economy approach, some of the clean green waste was chipped to provide free mulch to Saipan residents.

Additional work completed to date includes:

• Hiring new staff across different departments to advance CNMI Solid and Zero Waste programs, including a program manager, four solid waste project coordinators, and two solid waste engineers.

• Leading regular Integrated Solid Waste Management Task Force meetings with 18 experts from Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and EPA.

• Visiting and hosting Guam Environmental Protection Agency Zero Waste experts to learn from their successful recycling and composting programs.

• Hosting an initial Zero Waste training, sharing Zero Waste updates at quarterly public interagency meetings, and planning additional training and program development in the coming year.

“The climate, environmental and economic benefits of waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting are clear,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Jordan. “We look forward to sharing CNMI’s Zero Waste actions to support the implementation of EPA’s National Recycling Strategy.”

“Recycling is critical to sustainable development in the CNMI given its limited landfill capacity and other resources,” Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality Administrator Eli Cabrera noted. “BECQ has recently revised its Solid Waste Management Program regulations to streamline permitting for recycling facilities including drop-off centers; automotive, scrap metals, and white goods salvage facilities; construction and demolition waste landfills; and bioconversion facilities including composting. It has also hired staff to build capacity to make sure these changes are implemented appropriately and has scheduled a number of trainings for the upcoming year. These changes should have a significant impact on the amount of waste that is landfilled in the CNMI and help the CNMI achieve its zero waste goals. BECQ is excited to help implement EPA’s 2021 Strategy to address the challenges of recycling to achieve environmental and health benefits for its people and to protect its coastal resources.”

CNMI Office of Planning and Development Director Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong said “zero waste strategies are critical to achieving responsible consumption and production patterns.” Director Ogumoro-Uludong elaborated that “CNMI’s Comprehensive Sustainable Development Plan includes the goal that, by 2030, 50% of the recyclable waste stream will be diverted from CNMI’s landfill or RCRA-compliant waste management facilities on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands with diverted waste composted, reused, or sold to support sustainable waste management systems. By continuing comprehensive inter-island waste management planning and investing to build capacity and our built infrastructure, CNMI is making strides to achieve this ambitious target. This goal is connected to and supports other sustainability objectives. For example, by reducing the quantity of disposed waste entering our landfill we will also be able to efficiently allocate waste management costs, maximize public land uses, and reduce environmental and human health risks of improperly managed waste. We greatly appreciate USEPA’s guidance and support in this effort as we continue to incorporate zero waste principles into short-, mid-, and long-range plans and priority actions.”

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