The Division of Environmental Quality Monthly Cleanup Brigade collected over 18,500 lbs of trash throughout Saipan last year, and organizers are optimistic that efforts to keep the island clean would continue successfully in 2013.
Last year's trash collection figures involved not only the volume collected through the regular cleanup but also the islandwide cleanup in April in observance of Environmental Awareness Month, and the International Coastal Cleanup in September, brigade coordinator Joe Kaipat said yesterday.
“The Cleanup Brigade, which started in 1996, was created as an outreach effort. We're trying to reach out to the community to help pick up trash and to gain more volunteers to help in a campaign that's working,” he told Saipan Tribune.
Kaipat, who's been spearheading the initiative since 2008, said the success of the cleanup brigade would not have been possible without the hard work of DEQ staff and all the volunteer individuals and organizations.
He disclosed that they get an average of 75 volunteers per month, and these volunteers are provided with refreshments. Those who have participated in at least three cleanups receive a brigade cap while those who have taken part in a minimum of 10 cleanups get a brigade t-shirt.
As coordinator, Kaipat said he tries to sustain the support of regular volunteers and motivate new ones to keep the program running and minimize trash on island.
Kaipat noted that their volunteer data also do not take into account the other individuals and groups that conduct their own regular cleanups as part of other valuable environmental programs run by organizations like the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance, Marianas Visitors Authority, and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce.
With more groups initiating similar programs, Kaipat is encouraging other groups to keep records of their monthly cleanup, explaining that data collection would be instrumental in determining whether the cleanup is successful or not.
“People would be more enticed to donate to nonprofit groups if they have data to support their activities,” he added.
DEQ, as a government agency, cannot accept donations for its Cleanup Brigade, said Kaipat. Their activities and supplies have “limited funding” out of a base grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the money that the group makes when they sell recyclable materials like aluminum cans.
Kaipat is hoping that the brigade's efforts would be enhanced by the approval into law of a bill that would lower the “hefty and steep” fines litter control officers can impose on violators, saying that the move would help curb littering and illegal dumping on island.
He said they also expect to get representatives from Tinian and Rota to rally support in extending the campaign to the two islands.
Kaipat thanked all DEQ staff and volunteers for their hard work in the cleanup brigade in 2012. “Keep up the good work. Don't give up. Let's help educate others and continue to do our work.”
He urged the public to take responsibility for disposing their trash properly by taking it with them after a picnic or a barbecue party at the beach or anywhere on the island.
“You wouldn't want others to throw trash in your property, so don't do it in public places too. If you know that it's bad, don't do it. We encourage you to join us in our cleanups,” added Kaipat.
This year's first cleanup is scheduled at 8am on Saturday, Jan. 5, at Tank Beach, and Kaipat said the DEQ Cleanup Brigade is always in need of additional volunteers. For more information, call 664-8500 or 01.