LET’S talk trash, but no filthy words, only rubbish talk. We should start with a clear picture of our current garbage situation then work together in addressing its serious health, environmental, and economic threats to the Marianas.

The illegal dumping of trash is rampant and out of control. Our landfill is running out of space by the day. Recyclable materials are not being processed correctly. We aren’t composting materials that can fertilize our soil. The list of concerns surrounding our waste management goes on and on, much like the piles of trash causing significant harm to our islands and its people.

This week, the newly established Universal Garbage Collection or UGC Task Force held its second meeting and discussed the immediate steps we should be taking to mitigate this issue. We have only 90 days to produce solid recommendations to resolve our trash problems. We established four committees — Logistics, Cost of Service, Comprehensive Planning, and Outreach — that will address these key components of our plan.

Why we need waste management

Waste management involves the regular collection, transportation, processing, recycling, and disposal of waste materials. It also involves educating a society about responsible consumption, sorting and disposal of all types of materials to avoid environmental hazards.

Look at it this way: we have vessels bringing shiploads of containers full of supplies, food, and materials weekly but not none of those containers take any trash away. Saipan alone generated 58,105 tons of waste material in FY 2018, according to a feasibility study report. If garbage is not collected and handled professionally, we will soon see the effects of this issue on our environment, food supply, and even our water system. Eventually, it will have an effect on our overall economy if we don’t get our trash issues under control.

Most important, waste management is important to public health. Harmful wastes can cause long-term health problems if not collected and disposed of properly. A poorly managed landfill can and will affect the health of a community. Dangerous materials such as oil, paints, and acids can seep into our water aquifers and pollute the water we use to drink, cook and bathe.

UGC is everyone’s business

As we move forward, the task force would like to hear more ideas from our youth, community, government, and business leaders to find sustainable solutions to our waste management problems. We welcome your input and will look at all feasible pathways to achieving house-to-house garbage collection, reducing the volume of garbage dumped in the landfill, recycling and upcycling of materials, and eliminating illegal dumping Marianas-wide.

There will be a cost to these efforts, but I am confident that the task force will identify avenues that will make the UGC system work and not overly burden our community.

Join me each week as we talk trash and pick fights — the good kinds that demand a safer and healthier environment for our community and aim to improve the quality of life in the Marianas for all of us.

For more information about the Universal Garbage Collection initiative, visit the GCEA website at cnmieconomy.com. Engage with the UGC Task Force via email at gceacnmi@gmail.com

Gary Sword is vice president of KKMP radio station, and has extensive experience in power, water, waste water, and solid waste services. Gary serves as a member of the Domestic Policy Recovery Committee for the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers.

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