Community collects over 9,000 pounds of trash in coastal cleanup

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FOLLOWING the International Coastal Cleanup held in the CNMI on Saturday, September 19, the Division of Coastal Resources Management has been analyzing and inputting data for the top 10 items from the cleanup.

“Although we are still in the process of inputting data, the trend seems to continue. Cigarette butts are the number one most collected debris in the CNMI, and number two worldwide,” said ICC coordinator for the CNMI Colleen Flores in an interview.

She added, “The problem with cigarette butts is that, although small, there are way too many to ignore. One way to tackle the cigarette butt issue is to encourage behavior change. Get a reusable pocket-sized ashtray — yes, that's a thing — properly dispose of your cigarette butts in nearby trash cans, or speak up when you see someone flicking their cigarette butts in our environment.”

Preparations between DCRM and Ocean Conservancy — the founders and national coordinators of the ICC —  began in June.

“While efforts in the U.S. were at a standstill due to the rising cases of Covid-19, DCRM decided to push through locally as our numbers seemed to flatten,” said Flores.

She noted that online registration went live and advertisements in the local newspapers, the DCRM website, both local radio stations, and social media began in July.

Collaboration efforts with the Division of Environmental Quality, Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance, and the Department of Public Works Solid Waste Division were crucial to the success of the ICC, she said.

DCRM provided groups with an eight-step fact sheet on how to safely conduct a cleanup during Covid-19.

Proper safety measures such as social distancing, 25 maximum volunteers per group, and proper hand hygiene was extremely expressed during advertisement as well as email communications between volunteers and the ICC coordinators, said Flores.


International Coastal Cleanup volunteers at Tank Beach are given instructions by Division of Coastal Resources Management communications specialist Mallory Muna during this year’s cleanup. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol      

The agency also provided hand sanitizers for proper sanitization, encouraged groups to wear face masks and use reusable bottles while conducting their cleanup.

“Since plastic beverage bottles are one of the top 10 most collected items in the world, DCRM encouraged groups to bring their own reusable water bottles and provide water jugs for refilling. The BECQ and MINA teams used their reusable water bottles and water jugs during the collection process,” Flores said.

Funding to support the coordination and execution of the ICC is budgeted every year in the DCRM cooperative agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under its Coastal Zone Management Administration award.

Supplies, such as gloves, trash-bags, and data sheets, are typically provided by the Ocean Conservancy, whilst other related expenses, such as fuel and advertising costs, are part of the DCRM federal award budget.

“Although DCRM recognizes that plastic trash bags and disposable gloves are not ideal, they are the most effective in protecting volunteer health and safety, which remains a priority,” said Flores.

After volunteers conducted cleanups at their respective location, Flores said that volunteers were asked to stage the collected debris at their group’s flag which was placed near the entrance of their adopted location.

Then, Flores said, the DCRM and Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance, or MINA, staff came by to collect the trash as well as to take note of the number of trash bags and total weight collected by each group.

“This year, our team had to beat the clock and haul all the collected debris to the transfer station and/or landfill before they closed at 1:00 pm,” said Flores.

She said that receipts from the transfer station/landfill shows how many pounds of trash were collected overall.

“The goal of the ICC is to collect shoreline litter and washed-up marine debris and dispose of them in a proper manner in order to lessen the amount of pollution that enters our oceans and waterways,” she added.

In addition, data collection is as important, said Flores.

Volunteers are given a standardized data collection sheet where they can tally debris as they pick it up.

The data are then inputted into Ocean Conservancy's Global Trash Database “and is crucial to solving the world's ocean pollution problem,” said Flores.

Locations were granted on a first-come, first serve basis. ICC registration opened in late July and those who registered early got first pick of their cleanup location.

ICC locations on Saipan included the 13 Fishermen Memorial, Agingan Settlement Site, Beach Road (Kanoa Resort to Bank of Guam-Chalan Piao Branch), Bird Island, Carolinian Utt Beach Park, Civic Center, Coral Ocean Point, Coral Tree Avenue (Paseo de Marianas), CowTown, Dandan Beach, Fiesta Beach, Fishing Base, Hyatt Beach, Infinity Pool, Gov. Eloy S. Inos Peace Park, Jeffrey's Beach, Kilili Beach Park, Koblerville Main Road, Ladder Beach, LaoLao Bay, Lower Base Beach, Marine Beach, Micro Beach, Obyan Beach, Old Man by the Sea, Oleai Beach, Pakpak Beach Park, Paupau Beach, Quartermaster, San Antonio Beach, San Isidro Beach Park, San Juan (Hidden Beach), San Roque Beach, Smiling Cove Marina, Sugar Dock Beach, Susupe Beach Park, Tanapag Beach, Tank Beach, and TSL Plaza Beach.

Unfortunately, Flores said that DCRM does not have the capacity to conduct post-cleanup evaluations of all 40 adopted locations.

“However, we can expect to see washed-up marine debris all along the east coast of Saipan. These are mainly marine debris that did not originate in the CNMI and instead found its way through miles of ocean onto our shores,” she said.

Saipan volunteers who participated in the cleanup this year included American Memorial Park (National Park Service), Bureau of Environmental & Coastal Quality, Century Insurance, Chinese Hikers 1 & 2, Commonwealth Bureau of Military Affairs & the US Army Reserve, CTSI Logistics, D&Q, Emon Masonic Lodge 179, Fiesta Resort & Spa, Herman’s Modern Bakery, IT&E, Kanoa Resort, L&T Groups of Companies, Lady Wella Palacios and #FitBeat, Legion of Mary – Kristo Rai Parish, Mariana Ocean Research Project, Matua Council for Chamorro Advancement, McDonald’s of Saipan, NMC’s Natural Resources Management Class and Marine Biology Class, Office of Planning & Development, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Paradise Dental Spa, Rotaract Club of Saipan, Rotary Club of Saipan, Saipan Alliance Lions Club, Saipan Centennial Lions Club, Saipan Cleanup, Saipan Fil-Am Lions Club, Saipan Marianas Lions Club, Saipan Natibu Lions Club, Saipan Pacific Lions Club, Saipan Paddling Club, Saipan Tribune, Saipan Unity Lions Club, Salty Skin Pacific, SSHS Environmental Club, SSHS Interact Club, SSHS Manta Ray Battalion, and the United Filipino Organization.

On Rota, volunteers included the Department of Fire & Emergency Medical Services, Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, Department of Lands & Natural Resources, Department of Public Works, Department of Public Safety, Rota Mayor's Office, the Bureau of Environmental & Coastal Quality, Dr. Rita Hocog Inos Jr./Sr. High School, Sinapalo Elementary School, Grace Christian Academy, Rota Resort and Country Club, Mark Michael, and Toting Ethan Barcinas.

Tinian volunteers included the Department of Commerce, Department of Finance, Department of Labor, Department of Lands & Natural Resources, Department of Public Works, DPW Solid Waste Division, H-Compound, and Star Marianas Air Inc.

Regarding future ICCs, Flores noted that there is always room for improvement, noting that DCRM aims to streamline the registration process where registrants can see which locations have already been adopted to refrain from double-booking.

She added that data collection is oftentimes overlooked by volunteers, but DCRM will continue to convey the need for and importance of data collection during next year's cleanup.

This year, 971 volunteers participated in the ICC, collecting over 9,000 pounds of trash in 75 locations across the Commonwealth.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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