Trash in paradise: Littering, especially on beaches, continues

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THE CNMI’s anti-littering measure was enacted in 1989 and following its “improvement” in 2016, at least over 50 government employees underwent litter-control training to ensure the implementation of the law.

Litter at a pavilion in Oleai on Tuesday.   Photo provided by James Lee
“It is just so sad to continue seeing large amounts of trash and even household trash being left behind our beaches,” Rep. Joel Camacho said.  Contributed photo
Picnic and household trash at Paupau Beach.  Contributed photo

But littering in public places, mainly on beaches, remains an islandwide problem.

On Wednesday, litter was scattered on popular beaches such as Paupau and Kilili.

Resident James Lee said, “Every Tuesday, I do my beach run from Oleai heading south to the dock and back. I do normally see some trash here and there on my runs, but [Tuesday] was the worst that I have seen. There were piles of trash every 50 feet. To top it off, the public trash cans were just nearby and were not even full.”

He said he and friend Joseph Villacrusis picked up as much trash as they could and placed them in the designated public trash cans.

“It is great that people are getting out of their homes and enjoying our beaches with their family and friends, especially during hard times, but please, clean up after yourselves,” Lee said. “If anything, check your surroundings, and if you do see trash around, clean those up as well regardless of whether it is yours or not. Be mindful that this is your island, your home.”

The duo posted photos and videos on Facebook of their impromptu cleanup efforts, in hopes of raising awareness.

A number of CNMI legislators, including Rep. Joel C. Camacho, expressed similar concerns on their social media accounts.

In a separate interview, G4S security guard Keoni Alokoa said he noticed that the trash at Obyan Beach had not been collected since his shift on Tuesday.

“I worked the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift at this post on Tuesday, and I noticed that the trash was full. I came to work the next day and the trash is still there. Usually, the Division of Parks and Recreation comes to pick up the trash at varying times of the day. During my past two shifts though, the trash has not been picked up.”

Under the governor’s Executive Order 20-04, which declared a state of public health emergency on Monday, the CNMI government will be shut down for two weeks.

After visiting Saipan’s other popular beaches on Wednesday, Variety noted that nearly every public trash can in those areas were full. Bags filled with trash had been placed beside the trash cans, stacked on top of each other. Trash had also been placed in bins designated for recycling.

On nearly every single one of the beaches visited by Variety, litter was scattered in the natural environment, on the sand, the grass, and other surrounding areas.

During a press conference on Monday, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres mentioned that he received a call earlier that day notifying him that the landfill was closed, which posed an environmental and health issue in the community.

The governor said, “This is an evolving [situation] in terms of what do we shut down today versus what can we open up tomorrow while ensuring safety across-the-board.”

He added that it is essential to address environmental safety issues.

Disappointed

For his part, Rep. Joel C. Camacho expressed disappointment over the trash scattered in the San Roque and Tanapag beach areas.

He said even with the coronavirus issue people should help maintain the cleanliness of the environment.

“It is just so sad to continue seeing large amounts of trash and even household trash being left behind our beaches,” he said.

Camacho said the public should work together during these difficult times.

“We are a strong and resilient community and I humbly implore everyone to please pick up our own trash before we leave our beaches,” he added.

Camacho said the community must continue to do its part to keep the island clean and beautiful.

“We are a strong Marianas people — we can do this!” he added.

With Junhan B. Todino

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