Last year, China implemented a ban on foreign garbage, creating a crisis for the recycling industry worldwide, including the Pacific islands region. About 42,000 tons of recyclables are collected every year in Guam alone, and China’s new policy against taking other countries’ rubbish causes anxiety, not just to recycling businesses but to solid waste managers as well.
Regional stakeholders will try to find solutions to this burgeoning mess during the 30th Pacific Islands Environmental Conference or PIEC to be held from June 23 to 28 at the Hyatt Regency Guam.
Themed “Greening Growth in the Pacific,” the bi-annual conference will focus on zero waste strategies.
“Zero waste is one of the quickest, most cost-effective short-term climate change solutions. Communities large and small around the world are investing in Zero Waste as an urgent climate action,” according to a press release from the Guam governor’s office.
The Zero Waste International Alliance defines the concept as, “The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of all products, packaging, and materials, without burning them, and without discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”
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The federally funded conference is being organized by a multisectoral partnership comprised of the Office of the Governor, the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, and the Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans, with funding from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The Nature Conservancy, and members of the Guam business community.
PIEC hosting rotates among U.S. territories — American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. This year, the Guam Environmental Protection Agency is the lead organization in partnership with the U.S. EPA as well as the American Samoa EPA and CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality.
According to a press release from the governor’s office, the Solid Waste Association of North America or SWANA will host a training and pre-conference workshops throughout the six-day event.
“Professional certifications will be available on managing composting systems, managing integrated solid waste management systems, radon measurements, and zero waste systems and principles,” the governor’s office said. “Learning about these waste management disciplines in collaboration with SWANA, are both practical, and relevant to Guam and other small island developing states in the Pacific.”
The PIEC is expected to draw hundreds of delegates from the environmental protection professions, including managers, field representatives, environmental governance officials, international, and national leaders, as well as diplomats, concerned business owners, a visionary NASA scientist, and indigenous global activist, and non-profit groups from around the world.
“The islands in the Pacific are on the very front lines of this global crisis. Here on Guam we need to work on developing a Green Economy and create new strategies to address the challenges of climate change,” said Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
Participating islands include Guam, the CNMI, American Samoa, Palau. Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands.
“This biannual conference comes seven years after the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio +20, where nations gathered, including the small island developing states, to reaffirm their commitment to safeguarding the environment for future generations,” the governor’s office said.