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EPA Releases Bold National Strategy to Transform Recycling in America; CNMI stands at the forefront

EPA celebrates CNMI’s work to integrate recycling into Typhoon Yutu recovery

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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the 2021 National Recycling Strategy to tackle recycling challenges facing the nation and to create a stronger, more resilient, and cost-effective municipal solid waste recycling system. This year, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) has started to overhaul its Zero Waste and Solid Waste plans and infrastructure to create a more resilient and sustainable environment.

“Our nation’s recycling system is in need of critical improvements to better serve the American people. EPA’s National Recycling Strategy provides a roadmap to address system challenges and pave the way for the future of recycling,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “As we move forward with this strategy, EPA is committed to ensuring that historically underserved and overburdened communities share in the benefits that our work will deliver. Together with the historic investments in recycling from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the strategy will help transform recycling and solid waste management across the country while creating jobs and strengthening our economy.”

During the next few months, EPA will work collaboratively with stakeholders to develop a plan to implement the 2021 Strategy. EPA will collaborate with communities, local, state, federal, and Tribal partners, and with public and private stakeholders to achieve the strategy’s ambitious goals. EPA looks forward to supporting state and local agencies who are on the ground solving these issues.

This year the CNMI has taken major steps to work with EPA through Typhoon Yutu recovery grants to develop Zero Waste and Solid Waste plans and infrastructure. In responding to Typhoon Yutu with a circular economy approach, some of the clean green waste was chipped to provide free mulch to Saipan residents.

Additional work completed to date includes:

  • Hiring new staff across different departments to advance CNMI Solid and Zero Waste programs, including a Program Manager, four Solid Waste Project Coordinators, and two Solid Waste Engineers.
  • Leading regular Integrated Solid Waste Management Task Force meetings with 18 experts from Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and EPA.
  • Visiting and hosting Guam Environmental Protection Agency Zero Waste experts to learn from their successful recycling and composting programs.
  • Hosting an initial Zero Waste training, sharing Zero Waste updates at quarterly public interagency meetings, and planning additional training and program development in the coming year.

“The climate, environmental and economic benefits of waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting are clear,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Jordan. “We look forward to sharing CNMI’s Zero Waste actions to support the implementation of EPA’s National Recycling Strategy.”

“Recycling is critical to sustainable development in the CNMI given its limited landfill capacity and other resources,” Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality (BECQ) Administrator Eli Cabrera noted. “BECQ has recently revised its Solid Waste Management Program regulations to streamline permitting for recycling facilities including drop-off centers; automotive, scrap metals, and white goods salvage facilities; construction and demolition waste landfills; and bioconversion facilities including composting. It has also hired staff to build capacity to make sure these changes are implemented appropriately and has scheduled a number of trainings for the upcoming year. These changes should have a significant impact on the amount of waste that is landfilled in the CNMI and help the CNMI achieve its zero waste goals. BECQ is excited to help implement EPA’s 2021 Strategy to address the challenges of recycling to achieve environmental and health benefits for its people and to protect its coastal resources.”

CNMI Office of Planning and Development (OPD) Director Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong further emphasized that “zero waste strategies are critical to achieving responsible consumption and production patterns.” Director Ogumoro-Uludong elaborated that “CNMI’s Comprehensive Sustainable Development Plan includes the goal that, by 2030, 50% of the recyclable waste stream will be diverted from CNMI’s landfill or RCRA-compliant waste management facilities on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands with diverted waste composted, reused, or sold to support sustainable waste management systems. By continuing comprehensive inter-island waste management planning and investing to build capacity and our built infrastructure, CNMI is making strides to achieve this ambitious target. This goal is connected to and supports other sustainability objectives. For example, by reducing the quantity of disposed waste entering our landfill we will also be able to efficiently allocate waste management costs, maximize public land uses, and reduce environmental and human health risks of improperly managed waste. We greatly appreciate USEPA’s guidance and support in this effort as we continue to incorporate zero waste principles into short-, mid-, and long-range plans and priority actions.”

The U.S. recycling system faces many challenges, including reduced markets for recycled materials, recycling infrastructure that has not kept pace with today’s diverse and changing waste stream, confusion about what materials can be recycled, and varying methodologies to measure recycling system performance. The 2021 National Recycling Strategy identifies actions to address these challenges that build on the collaborative efforts by stakeholders from across the recycling system that began under the 2019 National Framework for Advancing the U.S. Recycling System.

The Strategy focuses on how the Agency will move forward in the following areas:

  • Increasing Equitable Access for Overburdened Communities: EPA recognizes the burden that living near waste and waste-related facilities has on communities when waste is not properly managed, which can lead to higher levels of chronic health issues. The 2021 Strategy will increase equitable access to recycling services, reduce environmental impacts in communities, stimulate economic development, and ensure overburdened communities meaningfully participate during the strategy’s implementation.
  • Reducing Climate Impacts of Materials Management: The 2021 Strategy includes a commitment by EPA to create a new national goal to reduce the climate impacts from the production, consumption, use, and disposal of materials, which make up approximately 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Environment Programme’ s International Resource Panel. This new climate goal will help achieve President Biden’s commitment to achieve a 50-52-percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
  • Managing Materials for a Circular Economy: While this initial 2021 Strategy focuses on the recycling of municipal solid waste, additional work is necessary to create a “circular economy” where materials (e.g., plastics, food waste, electronics, and industrial materials) are sustainably managed throughout their lifecycle. EPA, in coordination with other federal agencies and interested stakeholders, intends to release subsequent strategies that will encompass other activities beyond the recycling, reflecting the need for sustainable product design, reducing waste generation, and materials reuse activities critical to realizing circularity. Subsequent strategies will address other key materials, such as plastics, food, cement, and concrete, as well as electronics.

Additional Background:

Over the next few years, EPA will move forward to support a circular economy approach to materials management, which represents an important change in how the nation currently mines resources, makes them into products, and then disposes of them. A circular economy approach reduces material use, redesigns materials and products to be less resource intensive, and recaptures “waste” as a resource to manufacture new materials and products. It is defined by the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act as “a systems-focused approach and involves industrial processes and economic activities that are restorative or regenerative to the environment by design, enable resources used in such processes and activities to maintain their highest values for as long as possible, and aim for the elimination of waste through superior design of materials, products and systems (including business models).”

Learn more about the National Recycling Strategy: Part One of a Series on Building a Circular Economy for All: https://www.epa.gov/recyclingstrategy

Learn how to improve the nation’s recycling rate: https://www.epa.gov/recyclingstrategy/national-recycling-strategy-part-one-series-building-circular-economy-join-effort

Learn more about recycling in the United States: https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling

Learn more about EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. Connect with us on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Author: Region 09

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