Of all the things I’ve pictured myself doing in life, I never imagined that I would one day be digging through garbage. Yet there I was at the Liberation carnival Saturday night, burrowing through containers of trash, searching for plastic bottles, removing their caps, and putting them in the “Plastic Bottles Only” container that sits right next to the trash container at each of the carnival’s recycling “atolls.” Same with the cans. The worst, though, is the food. You have to (well, you don’t really have to – they tell you at recycling training that you don’t have to do anything you consider too gross) open those Styrofoam containers that everyone throws away when they’re finished eating, remove the napkins and plastic utensils or whatever else people have tossed in, and dump someone’s leftover congealed red rice, chewed on spare ribs, and salad into the pig slop container labeled “Food Waste Only.” Yuck. Even if you wear gloves.
As you can imagine, not many people volunteer for this dirty job. In addition to its overall grossness, the hours are killer: 6:30 p.m. to about one or two in the morning (if you can last that long). There is one person on the island who is passionate about this work, though. She deserves more props than Mike Rowe. Peggy Denney, the “i-Recycle Dynamo,” is nothing short of amazing. Actually, Denney is pretty short – maybe five foot nothing if she’s lucky. Within that tiny frame, though, she’s got more drive than the Los Angeles Lakers. Denney is the program administrator for Guam Business Partners for Recycling, Inc., a non-profit organization “dedicated to promoting aluminum recycling island wide in order to help the schools, help clean up our island, and help keep aluminum cans out of the Ordot Dump,” according to their web site, www.irecycleguam.org. Denney says Ambros and Anheuser-Busch came up with the concept and recruited the other partners, each providing financial support and in-kind services.
The partners are worth mentioning here: of course Anheuser-Busch Recycling Corporation and Ambros, Inc.; Matson Navigation; Guahan Waste Control dba Mr. Rubbishman; Coca-Cola/Foremost/Subway/Glimpses; South Pacific Petroleum Corporation –76/Circle K; Perez Bros., Inc.; and Ernst & Young. Kudos to every one of them for supporting such a worthy effort.
And it is worthwhile. I saw this firsthand even while picking through garbage. People are actually recycling. Sure, you have the usual percentage of suspects that accidentally put their plastic bottles or cans into the wrong bin or are just too lazy and throw everything into one container. But for the most part, people approach the atolls, take the time to read each bin lid, and at least separate their cans and bottles from the rest of their trash. Most refreshing is when they ask a volunteer, “What do I do with this?”
Denney has proven an amazing thing on Guam: People WANT to recycle. They are ready, willing and able to do it. If the new dump builders wanted to institute a recycling program, you might hear a little grumbling, but for the most part, we would all be on board.
“It’s very gratifying,” Denney said of the success of this year’s recycling atolls. “Much improvement over last year.”
So, gachongs, here is how you can help. At the carnival, pay attention to the bins. Aluminum cans in one; plastic bottles (please remove the caps – those go in the trash because they prevent the plastic bottles from fully compacting!) in another; food waste in one for the pig farmers; and everything else in the trash bin. If you have a truck and nothing else to do in the morning, you can show up around 10 am and help Denney and crew haul the aluminum cans and plastic bottles to Pyramid Recycling in Harmon. Of course you could volunteer to dig through garbage for an evening, because it’s a lot easier when volunteers go around every 20 minutes or so to “sort” the bins so you don’t have to dive too deep into the food muck at the end of the night, but only the few and the brave are cut out for this tough job. At first you may silently curse those “non-sorters,” but after a while, it becomes a mission. You feel like you’re really helping our environment. Especially when you see little kids making an effort to put cans and plastic bottles into the appropriate bin.
This Liberation, honor the sacrifices made by our manamko’ and the soldiers who fought for Guam by respecting what they left for us. Denney’s mantra, posted on the irecycle web site, is: “Each one of us can make a difference.” Will you?