Reducing Marine Debris in Saipan through a Culture of Recycling

Participants pose with their haul from a beach cleanup as part of the Micronesia Island Nature Alliance’s efforts against marine debris.

The NOAA Marine Debris Program partnered with the Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance to reduce littering and illegal dumping in Saipan by providing infrastructure for proper waste management and raising awareness about littering and marine debris through education and outreach.

Type of Project: Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant

Region: Pacific Islands

Project Dates: July 2015 - June 2017

Who is involved?
The Micronesia Island Nature Alliance (MINA) expanded upon a previously-supported effort to foster a culture of recycling in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), with the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant.

What is the project and why is it important?
Littering and illegal dumping of trash is a primary source of marine debris in Saipan, the capital and the most populous island of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. There are numerous barriers to proper waste management in Saipan, which lead to illegal dumping and littering. For instance, the government agency responsible for solid waste management in the CNMI lacks the budget to provide public trash bins or regular trash collection services. Residents can pay for home trash services or they can haul their own waste to the one landfill on the island, but many cannot afford these services or the fuel costs to haul their own waste, so illegal dumping persists. MINA spearheaded an initiative in 2009 to tackle these problems, with the support of the NOAA Marine Debris Program. This project expanded upon those previous efforts.

Through this project, the Micronesia Island Nature Alliance installed mixed-waste and recycling bins at seven new locations, bringing the total to 20 locations around the island. The trash and recycling from each bin location was collected weekly, and trained volunteers— called “Tasi Watch Community Rangers”— monitored the bins throughout the week, collecting and disposing of any overflowing waste between trash collections. In addition, local businesses and community groups participated in an “Adopt-a-Bin” program where the sponsors paid for the associated trash pickup service and helped with beach cleanups.

To raise awareness and build community engagement and support, MINA also implemented a Marine Debris Education and Outreach Campaign. As part of this campaign, MINA conducted education and outreach at community events, as well as leading bimonthly beach cleanups with bin sponsors and community groups. They also developed curricula with the CNMI Public School System on the impacts of improper waste management and marine debris; the curriculum is available in both Chamorro and Carolinian, the two indigenous languages of the CNMI. MINA provided training for teachers and worked with them as they implemented the curriculum in their classrooms. As a final part of MINA’s education and outreach campaign, the Tasi Watch Community Ranger volunteers monitored local beaches and provided education and outreach to beachgoers about littering, illegal dumping, and marine debris.