Numa'lo mobile refillery to promote zero waste, offer savings on hygiene products

LANDFILL: Various forms of plastic waste are seen at the Layon Landfill in this photo from 2020. Post file photo

In September, Guam residents will be able to save money and help the environment, all while getting clean.

Promoting zero waste is an initiative many on the island have undertaken in hopes of reducing the 600,000 pounds of trash generated here daily.

Ninety percent of products sold on island are imported, and most of what we throw away are single-use plastics, such as shampoo and conditioner bottles, soap bottles, toothpaste containers and detergent containers.

Because Guam does not have an avenue to ship recyclables off island, all of that plastic ends up at the Layon Landfill, which already has filled three of 11 trash cells.

It doesn't have to be this way, said Jasmine Flores-Cantrell, the founder of Numa'lo. The zero waste, mobile refillery has partnered with the Micronesia Climate Change Alliance to offer an alternative to single-use hygiene products by September.

"We need some viable solution for people to, on an everyday basis, be more conscious of the waste they are bringing into their lives and figuring solutions of how to cut back on that waste," said Flores-Cantrell.

One solution is the Numa'lo mobile refillery. Although refilleries are not a new concept, it is new for Guam, said MCCA co-founder Michelle Voacolo.

"Basically, it's a mobile store, and we would have a lot of different items in bulk like shampoos, conditioners, household cleaners, and people would be able to come in, and it's like a weigh-and-pay system," Voacolo said.

According to Flores-Cantrell, residents will also be able to order online through the Numa'lo Instagram page.

"One way we want to tap into convenience is through home deliveries every week, so people won't even have to leave, they can just order online, leave their bottles at their door and we will refill them," said Flores-Cantrell.

Residents will be able to bring their containers or mason jars and fill up their containers with various hygiene products.

The mobile refillery will travel from village to village and plans to open shop in neighborhoods such as Gill Baza and Zero Down.

"It's encouraged to reuse what you already have – that's the whole point of the van, is to get people mindful of their consumption habits. That kind of recycling containers has a rich history on Guam. We see a lot of our elders already do that especially for food, reusing containers for finadene and stuff," said Flores-Cantrell.

There's also the option of buying in bulk, which will save money on the costs of packaging.

"Not a lot of people know that when you purchase a product, you are also considering the price of the packaging. But because we are encouraging people to bring their own containers, they are simply charged for the weight of the product, no packaging, and so that ends up being cheaper," said Flores-Cantrell.

Flores-Cantrell currently lives in California and has been living a zero-waste conscious lifestyle for four years. She said her decision to move back to Guam next month is how Numa'lo was born.

"I am very privileged and fortunate to have a lot of access and resource to living that lifestyle here in California. It's a pretty progressive state making great environmental strides and I knew that moving home next month would strip me of that access, and so I just wanted to provide the resources and access to the people of Guam and to myself," said Flores-Cantrell.

Flores-Cantrell began working with the MCCA last year. They hope that businesses in the community will partner in the effort.

"One very important part of the project is we are aiming to source as local as possible. So we actually have already confirmed a number of partnerships with a multitude of eco-friendly businesses on Guam that are making some really amazing shampoos and soaps, and some of those businesses are also coming out with more zero waste products in the summer," said Flores-Cantrell.

Two local businesses, Maisa and Sirena, Sirena, have already committed to participate, said Voacolo.

"Maisa sells shampoos, conditioner, toothpaste and whatnot. Sirena, Sirena sells a lot of different skin care products. Sirena, Sirena is all organic ingredients, like her toner is like grapefruit water, no added chemicals. The deodorants are like essential oils like mango butter-activated charcoal," Voacolo said.

Buying local through the Numa'lo refiillery helps support local businesses and drastically reduce waste.

"We're really trying to get the word out to get some local support so that we can build a bigger audience because it really is going to be an amazing thing to empower people to take control of their buying habits," said Flores-Cantrell.

Through Numa'lo, Flores-Cantrell and the MCCA hope to divert roughly 100 to 200 pounds of trash from the landfill a year. The effort, however, will need funding to get the refillery rolling.

They are hoping to raise $10,000 and so far they have raised $1,000. Donations are being accepted through the MCCA Facebook page.

Aside from Numa'lo, MCCA has three other initiatives to combat the island's waste problem.

"We also have our Precious Plastics program where we ... upcycle a lot of laundry detergent bottles, food containers and make newer items with them like plant pots, magnets and coasters. We work with high school students to provide them service learning hours. We also recently created a web series that was all about the waste stream on Guam and throughout Micronesia," said Voacolo.

In the last few years, the Precious Plastics program has diverted at least 200 pounds of waste from entering the landfill. She said the MCCA is looking to partner with businesses to sell the upcycled items.

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