Beginning with a visit to the islands by Regional Administrator Martha Guzman, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to provide input on the pursuit of Zero Waste as a goal and solid waste management in the CNMI. To kick off the initiative, on March 30 EPA Regional Administrator Guzman joined CNMI Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and Lt. Gov. David M. Apatang on Saipan for a Zero Waste Visioning session. RA Guzman also toured the Marpi Landfill on Saipan and Tinian solid waste facilities.

Zero Waste refers to the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials, without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.

"The EPA is proud to partner with CNMI in its pursuit of Zero Waste," says EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. "We support the CNMI planning team's community outreach efforts and are confident they will lead to more effective plans to reduce, reuse, recycle, compost—which will reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions."

At the same session, Gov. Palacios and Lt Gov. Apatang signed a ground-breaking Zero Waste Proclamation designating the week of March 27 to April 2 as CNMI Zero Waste Week, an ongoing effort to improve resource use, combat climate change, create jobs, and unlock economic development opportunities in the CNMI.

“Preserving our environment is a top priority for our islands. Achieving Zero Waste and implementing sustainable solid waste management practices in the CNMI is vital to the beauty and quality of life of our people,” says CNMI Gov. Arnold Palacios. “We are grateful for the partnership of the [EPA] and their contributions to the development of our CNMI Comprehensive Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan and the incorporation of Zero Waste Practices. We hope to continue building upon this partnership for the benefit of our community and our environment.”

On April 18 and 19, CNMI’s Inter-island Solid Waste Task Force (ISWTF) conducted a Zero Waste Visioning Workshop during which attendees reviewed recent collection and survey data, then discussed and identified solid waste management priorities and steps required to achieve Zero Waste. ISWTF has plans for future community input and island- and resource-specific follow-up meetings in the months ahead to support the development of a CNMI Comprehensive Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan, including Zero Waste actions.

“Community participation and engagement are crucial in our mission to zero waste. I hope the Zero Waste Visioning Workshop garners the involvement needed to push our mission forward for a cleaner and greener CNMI," says Tinian and Aguiguan Mayor Edwin P. Aldan. “As we witness a change in climate and rising sea levels, it is essential to educate our community on the negative impacts that contribute to the concerns of global climate change; therefore, meaningful zero waste initiatives can make a difference in our communities."

The ISWTF, supported by the EPA, aims to have the CNMI Comprehensive Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan ready for incorporation into the next updated version of the CNMI’s Comprehensive Sustainable Development Plan on or before 2025. Once approved by the EPA, the plan will serve as the CNMI’s guiding document for solid waste management and will allow CNMI access to $56 million in Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act funding administered by the EPA to support critical solid waste disaster recovery projects.

Learn about CNMI Solid Waste Management Planning for Sustainable Consumption and Production.

Learn more about EPA Charting a Path Towards Zero Waste.

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