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Sustainable Approaches for Materials Management in Remote, Economically Challenged Areas of the Pacific
Townsend, T., D. Carson, AND N. Scott. Sustainable Approaches for Materials Management in Remote, Economically Challenged Areas of the Pacific. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-16/303, 2016.
In 2014, US EPA Region 9 applied for and was awarded a Regional Applied Research Efforts (RARE) project to provide technical assistance on solid waste management for remote, economically challenged communities in CNMI and American Samoa in the US Pacific territories.
Remote, economically challenged areas in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) and American Samoa in the US Pacific island territories face unique challenges with respect to solid waste management. These islands are remote and isolated, with some islands supporting only small populations, thus limiting options for pooling resources among communities in the form of regional waste management facilities, as is common on the US mainland. This isolation also results in greater costs for waste management compared to those encountered in the mainland US, a consequence of, among other factors, more expensive construction and maintenance costs because of the necessary transport of facility components (e.g., landfill liner materials) and the decreased attractiveness of waste recovery for recycling because of lower commodity prices after off-island transportation. Adding to these economic limitations, the gross domestic product and per capita income of the Pacific territories is less than half what it is in parts of the US. The first section of this report outlines a snapshot of the current state of solid waste management overall in the US Pacific island territories, primarily based on site visits.. Steps involved in this work included a review of selected existing published information related to the subject; site visits to Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Rota, Tutuila, and Apia; an assessment of the technical and economic feasibility of different solid waste management technologies for remote, economically challenged areas in the US Pacific island territories. Landfills designed to meet the minimum criteria for municipal solid waste landfills at 40 CFR Part 258 (herein referred to as Subtitle D requirements) are currently operated on Guam and Saipan. Waste disposal on the other islands (including Tinian, Rota, Tutuila, Aunu’u, Tau, Ofu, and Olosega) occurs through some form of unlined landfilling or open dumping or off-island transport of wastes. Site visits to Tinian and Rota found that the local government authorities maintained disposal sites at distinct locations and that these facilities were being upgraded from open dumping to more controlled sanitary landfills. The America Samoa Public Works Authority currently employs sanitary landfill practices at the Tutuila disposal facility, including waste compaction and cover soil placement. A preferred waste management solution is one focused on waste reduction and enhanced materials recovery through recycling and energy recovery. A number of recycling operations were observed during the site visits, particularly on the larger islands, with metals being the most commonly recycled material. Discussions with government officials and a review of existing information found that construction of waste-to-energy facilities had been considered on a number of occasions, but may not be economically viable, and/or are prohibited by local law. The second part of the document provides guidance to remote, economically challenged areas in the US Pacific island territories (and other similar locations) focused on management practices that promote sustainable materials management and minimize risk to human health and the environment. The information presented was derived from current waste-management practices along with experience gathered from waste-management practices from isolated communities outside the continental US.