Turning a container over to squint at a tiny recycling symbol and number is not something many people automatically do.

A large part of the reason why they don't do this is, they simply don't know that they should. And that looking at that tiny recycling symbol can lead to the discovery that the world is much more recyclable than you think. Many people overlook the wasted potential of reuse in their empty shampoo bottles, glue containers, vitamin containers, soup cans and more items. 

Here's where St. John's Environmental/Recycling Club wants to help.

Club President Grace Hutapea said the club will be opening its sorting recycling systems facility to the public every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the month of November, which is National Recycling Month. Nov. 15 is National Recycling Day. 

“Sometimes people just throw things into the recycling or trash bins, but this way, they’re more conscious of where their recyclables go,” Hutapea said about the desired impact of the event.

Plastics with 1 and 2 symbols, metal, aluminum, newspapers, glass and cardboard will be accepted at the St. John’s School Paka Lanai. All materials will be received by recycling club members, who will then sort materials into their correct categories, and deliver them to transfer stations and appropriate receptacles.

Recycling helps reduce the amount of trash that goes into the landfill. Approximately 20,000 tons of trash from GSWA curbside trash customers are collected and landfilled each year in the Layon Landfill, according to the Guam Solid Waste Authority, which collects trash from about 16,500 curbside customers each week. 

The landfill itself is expensive to maintain and expanding it costs millions as well. Currently, two of the cells where Guam's trash is being dumped are filling up and will need to be closed and capped off in another year or two. To open another cell is going to require more than $20 million. 

Educating the community

In hosting this community program, St. John’s Environmental Club hopes to spread awareness about what can and cannot be recycled, and where people can bring items to be recycled. 

There are 17 permitted recycling facilities on Guam that accept a variety of recyclables from tires, aluminum cans, plastics (PET1 and 2), batteries, metals, white goods, green waste, oil, cardboard and junk vehicles.

According to Nic Rupley Lee, the public information officer of the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, Guam reported a 39.16% recycling rate compared to the national recycling rate of 34% in 2018.

There is always room for improvement in the island’s recycling efforts, he said.

“Mindsets need to change and everyone must put in proper efforts to ensure that eligible waste can be diverted from the landfill and sent off for recycling," Lee said.

Some things to keep in mind about recycling in Guam: 

1) Cardboard cannot be wet or soiled, and plastic bottles should not have contents in them prior to disposal at a recycling facility.

2) Aluminum cans, plastic numbers 1 and 2 bottles and cardboard can be taken in at no charge. Other items can be accepted for a nominal fee.

3) Guam has facilities to collect, store and export recyclables, but does not have a facility that can process recyclables into new materials.

On Guam, recyclables have been collected roadside since 2013 by the Guam Solid Waste Authority twice a month. Additionally, three residential transfer stations for recyclable materials accept glass and cardboard for free: Harmon, Agat, and Malojloj.

Cardboard is baled, shipped off island and becomes new cardboard. Glass is stockpiled in landfills until it is ground up and used as an alternative daily cover for trash, according to the Guam Solid Waste Authority website.

Everyone can help

The event requires teamwork and cooperation of various dedicated club members.

Louis Weinberg, a 10th grader at St. John’s who initially participated in the program as an academic requirement, said he remained in the club because he found his calling and is “a big fan of manual labor.”

The Agana Heights resident stressed the consequences of trash pileup for everyone and emphasized how important it is for everyone to pick up their own trash and to recycle.

Weinberg’s biggest takeaway from Environmental Recycling Club is that “People are so scared of trash ... I never understand why; it’s trash. Get over it."

"We need to do our part to save the island," he said. 

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