CEG Funds No Longer Available for St. John Recycling Program


VI Waste Management Authority has pulled St. John Community Foundation’s Community Enrichment Grant funds, eliminating the group’s ability to continue the island’s popular aluminum can recycle program.

As of Monday, July 15, V.I. Waste Management will take over the collection of aluminum cans from the recycling bins located around St. John.

VIWMA is taking over the collection because they are unable to continue the Community Enrichment Grant funding which previously supported the collection process of the St. John Recycling Program.

St. John Community Foundation, which has overseen the operations of the current St. John Aluminum Can Recycling program started by volunteers in 2007, is collaborating with other community partners including members of the Island Green Builders Association’s ReSource Depot and Gifft Hill School’s EARTH Program to save and expand the recycling efforts on St. John.

Approximately 35 to 37 percent of all aluminum cans entering St. John have been diverted from the already bulging landfills by this grass-roots recycling program. As of the end of 2012, the collection total reached the 22.9 ton mark; that is more than 1 million cans and a total of 1,334,468 cans which were diverted from local landfills.

As of the end of 2012, in-kind volunteer donations in time, equipment and materials have surpassed $500,000.

SJCF is grateful for the volunteers who initiated the Aluminum Can Recycling program more than six years ago, making home-made collection bins and making this the longest running most successful recycling program in all of the Virgin Islands.

The organization won the 2011 U.S. EPA Environmental Quality Award for “outstanding commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality and public health” and recycling volunteer Barb Douma was invited to New York to accept the award.

The Aluminum Can Recycling program has been referred to as the model for island recycling efforts. When many felt that these kinds of initiatives were impossible in the VI, this program on St. John proved otherwise.

“We changed minds,” said SJCF Director Celia Kalousek. “Residents, vacationers, major St. John resorts, local businesses, the National Park and numerous other environmental organizations, are involved in the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycling efforts.”

“However, without the CEG funding, we are unable to continue without a new plan, more partners, and other sources of financial support,” said Kalousek.

VIWMA and the Recycling Association of the Virgin Islands St. John Chapter, working with SJCF, entered into a partnership in 2009 to step up the efforts, and received funding though the VIWMA’s Community Enrichment Grant Program.

The thrust of the Contracted Agreement with VIWMA was for trucking services that provided island-wide bin maintenance and reliable shipment to St. Thomas’ Sanitation Trash Services, where the cans are crushed and transported out of the Virgin Islands.

Volunteers were responsible for the weekly recycle bin maintenance for years, but as has been evident at sites across the island, the cans pile up at the bins quickly.

A contractor was needed for the arduous task of sorting the cans, bagging them and storing them until they could be loaded and transported to St. Thomas for delivery to STS which ships them off-island.

Nicodemus of Nico’s One Stone, was reliable and efficient, and the hope is that the collaborative partners can find the funding to bring him back.

“We are so pleased with the progress that this program has made over the years, as well as the enthusiasm that is being brought to the table now to ensure it continues,” said Kalousek. “Residents and visitors alike are also showing that they are willing to separate glass and plastic, and although that has caused the additional work of sorting it out of the aluminum cans, it is exciting to think we are only steps away from being able to further reduce the volume transferred to the soon-to-be-closing dumps.”

A 2009 Waste Characterization Study done for the Virgin Islands showed that readily compostable wastes account on average for about 35,000 tons per year, and that recyclables-including metals, aluminum cans and glass-account for about 8,000 tons per year, explained Kalousek.

“This is serious business,” she said. “The islands are running out of space for everything that is being thrown away, and we have to come up with another way to handle our waste.”

“We have come up with a pie-in-the-sky operation in which more recyclables, including glass and plastic, are included,” said the SJCF Director. “The first year budget is well over $250,000, of which approximately $85,000 for equipment and set up would be a one-time cost.”

“The good news is, that after the initial startup, the program could sustain itself and pour money back into St. John to support other environmentally sound initiatives,” she said.

Public awareness and education about the importance of recycling has been the focus of the VIWMA’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee, consisting of five representatives from St. John, five from St. Thomas and five from St. Croix meeting since September of last year.

Sharon Caldron, Gary Ray, Doug White, Rick Barksdale and Celia Kalousek have voluntarily represented St. John at monthly meetings in St. Thomas to help VIWMA make plans for the pending dump closures.

IGBA has been promoting greener building practices for over 10 years and the group’s successful ReSource Depot has diverted and recycled more than 25,000 pounds of construction and demolition waste into productive use and out of local landfills.

EARTH Program Coordinator and IGBA board member Sarah Haynes helped coordinate Green Thursdays, monthly meetings hosted on the last Thursday of each month at Gifft Hill School, to promote collaborations among all organizations and individuals interested in promoting environmental stewardship.

SJCF will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary in the coming year is committed to making a positive impact on the environment by collaborating with other organizations to educate our community on best practices for the conservation of energy and natural resources, encourage and facilitate the reduction of waste, and to foster an understanding of the importance of making environmentally responsible decisions.

For more information or to contribute time or financial support to this effort, contact Kalousek at 693-9410. Donations can be made to the St. John Community Foundation, PO Box 1020, St. John, VI 00831.