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January 17, 2008

Pacific Daily News

'Us' vs. 'them' doesn't help island

Apparently Mr. Stephen Wolborsky (Voice of the People, Jan. 8) either misread or did not understand much of my Dec. 29 letter to the editor.

He wrote a great deal about the shortcomings of local recycling efforts and the superiority of military efforts. He failed to notice that his remarks clearly delineated two separate communities on our tiny island: the military, and the rest of Guam. Based on his tone he might prefer to use the terms "us" and "them."

Recycling is a big problem that we all must face in Guam, especially since the new landfill will be the repository for both military and civilian trash.

I agree and applaud the recycling efforts of the military commands in Guam on the bases. They have set an example that we hope the civilian community will follow.

As a former Air Force dependent and a current Air Guard dependent, I have witnessed the military's concern and never questioned their efforts to recycle. The landfill at Andersen is well run and I was impressed when I visited the site.

I am concerned, however, with the military's reluctance to join with the local community in an islandwide program.

Mr. Wolborsky misinterprets the term "bottle bill" to be about only glass containers. As people in the recycling community understand, "bottle bills" are actually "beverage container deposit bills," and in most jurisdictions they cover all beverage containers that can be recycled.

Invitation to participate

When I introduced a bottle bill in the 27th Legislature, I recognized that the local government would need to ask the military commands to participate voluntarily. I wrote to Rear Admiral P.W. Dunne and Col. P.K. White, the Navy and Air Force commanders in Guam at that time. Both declined. Admiral Dunne went so far as to have one of his JAG officers write to "inform" local government leaders that we could not pass a law to force the Navy to participate. It was an insulting response to a request for voluntary participation.

Those were not the first letters of invitation that were sent by a Guam senator to the military commands to request participation in a bottle bill. The rejections I received were also not the first to be sent by military commanders.

As I noted in Voice of the People, the Guam Chamber of Commerce can only estimate how many beverages in aluminum, glass, plastic, tin and cardboard containers are sold on the bases and taken off base for consumption and disposal. We all know beverages are cheaper when purchased from the stores on base.

I can assure you that if a deposit is imposed on beverage containers sold in the local community, but not imposed at the same time on beverage containers sold on the bases, the volume of purchases on the bases will rise dramatically. Local beverage retailers and distributors have a right to be concerned.

Finally, I am amazed that such a serious environmentalist as Mr. Wolborsky would say that a tried and proven recycling program like a bottle bill would be a "marginal aspect" of our solid waste problems.

In the 11 states that have bottle bills, beverage container waste ending up in landfills has been reduced by as much as 80 percent. Every bit of recycling helps and we all need to do our part, however "marginal" it might appear to be.

I hope Mr. Wolborsky will take the time to get a better understanding of the entire issue. We are not experts when it comes to recycling and we admit we have much to learn. The "us" and "them" attitude from someone with valuable experience doesn't help our community.

Tina Rose Muña Barnes is a senator in the 29th Guam Legislature.


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