U.S. SCIENCE FELLOW TAKES ON MARSHALLS WASTE PROBLEM

News Release

U.S. Embassy

Majuro, Marshall Islands

Jan. 31, 2007

Dr.Thomas Pfleeger has been working at the U.S. Embassy in Majuro as a Science Fellow since late November and will continue working there until the end of February. The main focus of his attention has been the daunting solid waste problems facing Majuro Atoll, the capitol of the Marshall Islands.

The U.S. State Department Science Fellow Program encourages federal scientists to apply for the up to three month science fellowships at numerous embassies around the world. Dr. Pfleeger is the first Science Fellow to serve at the Embassy in Majuro.

Pfleeger works as a research scientist in the U.S. EPA’s Western Ecology Division, Office of Research and Development in Corvallis, Oregon. His specialized research has resulted in numerous publications relating to the effects of pesticides and other toxicants on the environment. His research has supported regulations that are formulated to comply with U.S. environmental laws.

So far during his Majuro assignment, he has been introduced to the magnitude of the solid waste problem by visiting numerous waste sites, including the government-managed land fill at Jable. He has had meetings with various government officials, notably Matt Zackhras, Minister of Public Works, and John Bungitak and his staff at the Environmental Protection Authority. He has also attended many of the presentations on the solid waste issue that have been conducted by ADB consultants Ben Chutaro and Tim O'Meara.

Dr. Pfleeger is currently assisting the Marshall Island Conservation Society (MICS) with a solid waste management project that is funded by a grant to MICS from the U.S. Embassy. MICS is using their grant to alter the function of the Jable land fill by initiating an extensive recycling program, an effort that continues to expand. Dr. Pfleeger is working closely with MICS to launch other recycling programs, such as the one he recently started at the U.S. Embassy, where glass, aluminum and plastic bottles (PET #1) are being collected for recycling. Dr. Pfleeger notes that as more items are removed from the waste stream to be reused or recycled, the longevity of the land fill will be increased allowing additional time for the development of better options for waste management.

Another project he has initiated is the ‘greening’ of the U.S. Embassy, an effort to reduce the natural resources required for the embassy to function. His primary goal is to reduce its consumption of electricity, power that is produced by the burning of nonrenewable fossil fuels. Pfleeger happily notes that several newly constructed local schools, as well as the Youth-to-Youth Center, have already reduced their electrical demands by using building designs that minimize the need for air conditioning by using natural air currents.

Dr. Pfleeger urges individuals and local organizations to begin their own recycling programs to protect the Marshall Islands environment, particularly its unique and irreplaceable marine resources. He is readily available to meet with individual or groups to discuss recycling and solid waste issues. He can be reached at the U.S. Embassy at 247-4011. Finally, he promises not to write still another long report, but instead wants to spend his limited time here working with residents on sustainable projects and programs.

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