Completing the circle: Navajo Nation <br>recycling workshop gets underway<br>completes the circle
FLAGSTAFF—Navajo Nation chapter leaders learned about solid waste management resources and methods during last week’s Navajo Nation Recycling Workshop.
This workshop was the first step in Protective Circles II, a series hosted by the Navajo Nation Solid Waste Management Program and the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals. Protective Circles II is designed to increase tribal understanding of solid waste source reduction, recycling, composting and sanitary landfills.
“The focus of this recycling workshop is to get the leaders to grasp the concept of the economics behind recycling,” said Vernon Nez, environmental specialist with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency’s (NNEPA) Resource Conservation and Recovery Program.
Tours of the City of Flagstaff’s Materials Recovery Unit, Composting Demonstration Site and NAU Recycles contributed to the chapter member’s understanding of what methods are used and what equipment is necessary to develop a successful solid waste management program.
“Today, our leaders on the Navajo Nation don’t consider solid waste as a priority. I hope we can get all the chapters together to consider solid waste as a priority,” said Leo Largie, the community service coordinator for the Naschitti Chapter in New Mexico.
The tribe must cooperate as a whole in order to create a new, profitable, successful solid waste management system for the Navajo Nation. At least one large recycling facility would need to be built, as well as regional transfer stations where people could drop off their recyclables. Each individual within the tribe would need to learn and practice the “Three R’s,” reduce, reuse and recycle. This means reducing the amount of non-recyclable material used, reuse products when possible and recycle waste.
“We want the chapters to network together to try to get everybody as a whole to get this system to work,” said Nez.
Developing a solid waste management program is not an easy task for any community, especially one as large as the Navajo Nation. However resources, grants and the knowledge of how to develop better solid waste management strategies are attainable.
Workshop participants subscribed to receive important resources like informational documents, videos and handbook, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)“The Consumers Handbook for Reducing Solid Waste” and “Grant Resources for Solid Waste Activities in Indian Country.”
“The grants are out there, you just have to write for the money, ask for the money. They have it,” said Ellen Ryan, City of Flagstaff’s Conservation Coordinator.
The United States EPA, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), the Navajo Nation Solid Waste Management Program and NNEPA provided funding for this recycling workshop.
Several presenters shared their solid waste experiences and knowledge during this three-day workshop. Spokespersons from Sedona Recycles shared the hardships they endured while building a successful recycling facility. They encouraged workshop participants to get their local community excited about recycling. Sedona Recycles generates profit by selling recyclable materials such as paper, plastic and aluminum.
While discussing the measures Arizona Clean and Beautiful takes to prevent illegal dumping in the Phoenix area, Leandra Lewis said, “What we do is try to change the attitudes of the people in the communities, so they’ll hold themselves responsible for their stuff.”
Illegal dumpsites are a problem on the Navajo Nation. With so much open space and no efficient means of solid waste disposal, many people dump their waste in open space, desecrating the land for decades to come. In order to reduce the amount of illegal dumpsites, the Navajo Nation must develop an efficient solid waste management plan.
“We’re a big tribe, we can pay for the facilities. We need people with persistence to make their voices be heard. But someone will be there telling us that we can’t do this, it can’t be done. If we all work together, we can do this,” said Geraldine Peshlakai, teacher at Tse Ho Tse Primary Learning Center.
The next step in Protective Circles II is the educator’s workshop December 8 and 9 in Flagstaff. This workshop will be more oriented to teachers and will give educators of the Navajo Nation tools to teach their students about recycling. Tours of schools in Flagstaff that employ recycling and composting techniques will be given and useful solid waste management curriculum will be distributed. For more information about the Educators Workshop contact Mansel Nelson at (520) 523 1496.