LOWER BASE Saipan — While one Saipan company has figured out how to turn trash to cash where the island’s recyclable materials actually go is still a problem.

Only 40 percent of all recyclable materials in the CNMI are being shipped abroad for processing. “The rest ” Eric Cruz president of the recycling company Basula Produkto said “still goes to the landfill.”

Various government agencies in the CNMI have embarked on an aggressive educational campaign urging residents and businesses to opt for recycling of recyclable materials among them the Department of Public Works and the Division of Environmental Quality.

“The campaign is working. But there’s still a lot of room for improvements ” Cruz told the Journal.

He cited a redemption program that entitles a consumer to a certain refund for every can or bottle of soda bought. He said legislation promoting this was introduced but shelved several years ago because “it’s too technical.”

Recycling is an emerging industry in the CNMI with four new companies having set up operations across the island.

Cruz partners with Thomas J. Nielsen president of Maeda Pacific Corp. for Guam and Saipan in the Lower Base company which employs about 10 people.

“The recycling center is about a half-million dollar investment ” Nielsen said. The company opened officially on April 28 but had been in business since February 2003.

The business is growing Neilsen said. “Every month it’s gone up and we’re doing advertising and setting up recycling bins. A lot of its education – and there has to be an incentive for people. Aluminum is the best example because we pay for that — and it’s always come in good. We’re having trouble with tires.

The incentive he said was not to paying a tipping fee — $25 per ton. “In the long run you save money. It’s not a whole lot of savings but for a business it’s an incentive.”

The company accepts tires from members of the public. “We have nowhere to go with the tires. We have a contract from the government to bail them and we’re keeping them in storage. We probably have about 1 000 bales – 30 000 tires.” Baled tires are not a fire hazard he said. “Hopefully somebody will come through with some great idea. If we ad our quantity together – we might be in a better position to find a buyer or somebody to take them for free.” He said recycling would only work with government support.

The company will take in tires cardboard glass metals (but not cars) and pays 25c a pound for aluminum. “Recently we’ve been getting a lot of the ink-cartridges and toners and a Korean has approached us and says he’ll buy them from us ” Neilsen said. We’re thinking about Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia ” he said and the subject had been discussed by island leaders from around the region. “But it’s just so difficult with the distance and shipping problems I don’t see how we can have one island be in charge of tires and one in charge of metals.” Shipment are mostly taken to South East Asia he said.

Neilsen said for example he can sell 100 tons of metal per month 250 tons of paper per two months and that buyers are not usually interested in relatively relatively small quantities.

Cruz said that the business runs on a wait-and-see mode where stockpiles of recyclable materials are stored in environment-friendly facilities until such time when the volume is big enough and buying rate profitable too.

“It’s the timing. And it usually takes three months sometimes six sometimes even a year depending on categories ” he said referring to whether the materials are scrap heavy structure metals aluminum cardboard papers glasses or plastics. Cruz said the industry needs full support from the government in addressing concerns about used tires. “We need to try and see how to re-use them.” He said used tire is a “world volume problem.” “There is a lot but nobody wants to buy them because recycling them is too expensive ” Cruz said. Recycling equipment for tires could cost up to $2 million he said. The company makes about $250 000 per annum. “I like it a lot . You can see you’re doing good.” MBJ