A trial recycling project in the villages of Ibobang and Mongami aims to expand to the rest of Babeldaob, says the organizing committees of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Bureau of Public Works (BPW), and the International Center for Environmental Technology Transfer (ICETT).
The project, which began in August 2018 and is set to continue until February of next year, involves the weekly collection of recyclable materials from four waste segregation stations in Ibobang, Ngatpang, and four stations in Mongami, Aimeliik. The waste, which is segregated at the stations into food cans, butane cans, soft and hard plastics, glass, and paper, is collected every Monday morning by a BPW truck stationed at the newly-opened National Landfill in Aimeliik and brought to Koror Landfill at M-Dock. The plastics, glass, and paper are deposited at Koror Recycling Center, while aluminum and metals are collected by the Palau Waste Collection Company, a private contractor which treats metals.
Organizers at JICA and BPW say that, if implemented on a larger scale throughout Babeldaob, the recycling system could reduce the transfer of waste to the National Landfill by somewhere between 25 and 50 percent. Unsorted waste from Aimeliik and Ngatpang states alone is estimated to be around 91 thousand kilograms of waste a year, and up to 45 thousand kilograms of that is recyclable material. JICA has said that the implementation of a large-scale recycling project in Babeldaob will not only benefit the environment, but will allow the landfill in Aimeliik to be used past its expected lifespan of 25 years.
The systems in Ibobang and Mongami are set up so that every household has its own “segregation” recycling bins, and takes its own recycling materials to one of the four segregation stations in the village. However, Joseline Skebong of the BPW Solid Waste Management Office says that it took a lot of education and outreach to get this system to work so effectively.
According to Ms. Skebong, the first year of the project was spent conducting outreach activities with residents and leaders in the governments of Ngatpang and Aimeliik, as well as looking for volunteers in areas around Ibobang and Mongami to help with conducting resident meetings.
“Every time we want to conduct community meetings to share data for our collections, we contact our state representatives, who contact all the residents,” said Ms. Skebong.
In 2019, the state representatives for the project took a trip to recycling and segregation stations and a landfill site in Mie Prefecture, Japan, in order to better understand recycling systems and their impact on waste reduction.
“When we came back, [the state representatives] are the ones who gave the presentations to the residents to inspire them to reduce waste,” said Ms. Skebong.
The actual recyclable collections did not begin until January 2020. Now, every week recyclables are collected from the eight segregation stations, and weight measurements of each type of recyclable are recorded.
Every year, representatives from the project also visit schools in Ibobang and Mongami to conduct educational outreach, using activities such as segregation games, drawing contests, and fashion shows with costumes made of recycled trash in order to convey the importance of waste reduction to students.
JICA, the BPW, and ICETT are still looking at ways to work with state governments to expand the recycling project throughout Babeldaob in coming years.
The new National Landfill officially opened on February 22, and currently collects the majority of waste in Babeldaob. Two trucks from the Babeldaob Waste Collection Company follow a weekly schedule to collect solid waste from households, state offices, schools and parks throughout the ten states.