Guam – A video clip that has been circulating on social media this past week shows a woman dumping cardboard sheets into the water in a Tamuning beach.
Two individuals who confront her in the recording ask her what she’s doing and whether she knows about the trash can located nearby.
The woman answers them indifferently, and proceeds to discard more waste into the water.
“This is my island,” the person recording told her.
The confrontation has not only incited anger among the environment-conscious members of the community, but also raised several points regarding the challenges of proper waste disposal on Guam.
Although various organizations initiate cleanups in public places, Guam’s beaches, parks and sidewalks remain strewn with trash weeks later.
Peggy Denney, the program administrator of i*recycle, expressed her disappointment at the lack of consistency in keeping the island clean.
Denney said, “GAIN has done a cleanup near Sanchez and it’s helping the Yigo community. Other groups have done cleanups, but it’s just trashed so fast. It’s just appalling,” she said in an interview with the Pacific Island Times.
Laws regarding the proper disposal of waste exist. Offenders who are found littering can be fined $200.
In 2010, the Legislature passed “the Guam Beverage Recycling Container Act,” a law meant to encourage locals to recycle glass, metal, or plastic drink containers by returning them for a 5- cent rebate per container.
Although Guam is listed alongside 10 states with bottle recycling laws, the status of implementation remains unclear.
In June 2013, the Sabrina Cruz-Sablan, special projects coordinator for the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, told the Mayors’ Council of Guam that no funding mechanism existed to implement the program.
Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee’s “Choose to Reuse” bill that will ban single-use plastic bags is a law that will take effect in 2021. As with existing recycling legislation, how this law will be enforced remains to be seen.
Another difficulty dealing with recycling concerns the ban on foreign garbage China implemented last year.
Guam’s local recycling industry collects 42,000 tons of recyclables each year. But the China ban has forced recycling companies worldwide to rethink about how they can process the recyclable materials they receive.
Eric Hsueh, the general manager of Pyramid Recycling, said this drastic change has created a number of difficulties.
Hsueh said, “There are whole states in a panic, because they’ve collected so many recyclables but they can’t send them to where they’ve always been sent to anymore.”
Despite all of these difficulties, Denney believes that the biggest change must not come from those in government, but everyone who calls the island home.
She said, “What I really want to see first is encouraging changes in people’s purchasing habits, so they should purchase less plastic to begin with.”
Paul Tobiason, the president of the Recycling Association also believes that everyone should take responsibility.
He said, “Everyone can do their small part. The few people who do make the effort are probably in the minority. If you see litter, why not pick up just a few pieces and dispose of it properly?”
Guam residents are encouraged to remain vigilant in keeping the island free of litter and to report any individuals who are found improperly disposing their waste to the Guam Environmental Protection Agency. (With reports from Pacific Island Times)