Old corrugated cardboard and other fibers make up the largest amount of waste dumped at the Marpi landfill. What’s next? Organics, mostly food waste.
A Department of Public Works study on solid waste management prepared by GHD Inc. for the CNMI government in December 2019 showed that half of the wastes that are dumped at the landfill are these items, where, in terms of weighted mean, 16.2% are cardboard, 17.1% are other fiber materials, and 14.9% are other organics.
What does this tell us? This means that most of the solid wastes we generate here are biodegradable, and can actually be composted or recycled. Simply put, if managed properly, these materials need not be in the landfill.
A quarter of the wastes that go to the landfill include construction and demolition materials, clothing and shoes, and dirt and other bulky items. Plastics, on the other hand, make up a collective 16% of the wastes that are dumped at the landfill. These include PET and HDPE bottles, bags and film, and mixed plastics.
Metals and glass combined go for 11%, with these types of trash: aluminum cans and utensils, food cans, glass bottles and containers, window and sheet glass, ceramic toilets, and other glass and ceramic items.
Again, these are almost all recoverable, if managed properly.
This is critical because on a small island like Saipan, land is an exceedingly precious resource.
In an earlier interview, Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality environmental specialist Marlyn Naputi emphasized that the lifespan of Saipan’s only landfill is a major issue that ties directly with proper solid waste management. To extend the lifespan of the Marpi landfill, waste reduction and recycling is key, she said.
To date, the landfill’s cell 1, the largest and which people in the CNMI have been using for 18 years now, since 2003, is on the brink of reaching its maximum 206-foot capacity. Cell 2, projected to be good for 15 years, will be used next.
The study stated that with Marpi landfill integral to the island’s solid waste disposal capacity, Saipan should consider strategies to divert these recoverable wastes from the landfill.
Waste sort what?
A waste sort is when one sorts and analyzes the actual amount of each different type of material that are in the incoming waste, in the case of the landfill.
In your home, for example, you can do a waste sort by sorting all the materials that are in your waste bin, segregating them according to type—paper and cardboard, plastic, cans, and so on—and then either counting each piece, or weighing them per type. Doing this will provide you with data on which type of waste you most have, which are recoverable, and which are not, and therefore could go to the landfill.
For the Marpi landfill, the waste sort study took place the week of April 8 to 13, 2019, and involved incoming haulers—commercial trucks (green trucks by Joeten Groceries and Ace Hardware), private direct haulers (private citizens, Parks and Recreation, and the mayor’s office), private collection haulers, and haulers from the Lower Base transfer station.
The sorters sorted and analyzed a total of 50 samples, using 32-, 33- gallon totes, or 5-gallon buckets, during the operating hours of the landfill, from 8am to 4:30pm. According to the study, 440 tons of municipal solid wastes were brought to the landfill the week the sort was done.
Again, majority of the wastes are cardboards and other fiber materials, and other organics, all of which biodegrade, and can be recycled or composted. Plastics, glass, and metals, too, can be recycled when properly segregated.
Curbside collection and waste convenience centers
To effectively manage wastes from the community, the study recommended, in terms of the materials that get donated, reused, and recycled, that the Lower Base Transfer Station be expanded. In addition, it was also suggested that more convenience centers be created, where people can go and properly sort and manage their wastes and recyclables.
A ban on the disposal of cardboard to the landfill was also recommended. A major recommendation is the collection of a fee, which would fund a universal collection, as well as a rate structure where every resident and every business pays, and gets access to solid waste program services.
A system of curbside collection was also recommended, as well as the provision for drop off centers and alternative waste diversion programs such as the formalization of swaps and trades that are already happening in the community.
Also, the creation of a solid waste authority was recommended, to set enact, and oversee all these rate structures, and service resources that would guide the flow of wastes in the community, with the main objective of preserving the capacity of island’s only landfill.
The importance of managing our wastes is perhaps best expressed jointly by Naputi, and Youth Congress speaker Cielo Citlalli G. Long, in previous Saipan Tribune interviews.
Naputi said, “To extend the lifespan of our only landfill, waste reduction and recycling is the best way to start. When we practice reducing, reusing, and recycling our waste, we help send less waste to the landfill…thus, extending its life.”
And from Long, this important question, “Many individuals who reside in the CNMI value the importance of land and understand how controversial its topic tends to be. …Would you rather give land to your children and hold its importance true, or would you rather waste it away?”
For those interested in the full study, the CNMI Department of Public Works Solid Waste Management Feasibility Study prepared by GHD Inc. for the Office of Grants Management can be downloaded from the Office of Planning and Development website: https://opd.gov.mp/library/agency/department-of-public-works/
Source: CNMI Department of Public Works Solid Waste Management Feasibility Study, December 2019