Recycling Enthusiasm Keeps Glass Crusher Busy on St. Thomas

Eighteen months after efforts began, glass recycling has taken hold on St. Thomas. According to data gathered by members of the St. Thomas Rotary Eco Club, 10 tons of glass have been diverted from the island’s landfill.

Doug White demonstrates donated glass crusher. (Source photo by Judi Shimel)

The St. Thomas club is one of 46,000 Rotary clubs worldwide that emphasize environmental protection as their community service. Working with a donated glass crusher and word-of-mouth promotion, volunteers have had to increase the processing of bottles and jars from twice a month to once a week.

“Our volume has been steadily growing,” Environmental Manager Doug White said, “(And) that’s just word of mouth, and the volume has increased so that we’re recycling every Saturday.”

The work gets done with help from machinery bought through a grant from the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands and donated by UVI’s Marine Science Advisory Service. Those efforts, fueled by 107 volunteer man-hours, produced 314.5 cubic feet of crushed glass between Oct. 1, 2023, and March 16, 2024.

Waste Management Authority Communications Director Lorna Minkoff said the authority recognizes the effort and the desire by some to do more. At one point, WMA was asked to help procure an industrial-size glass crusher, but cost considerations and maintenance issues prevented officials from taking action, Minkoff said.

To catch up with a willing-to-recycle public, the club is seeking funds to expand. They are also willing to welcome volunteers who can help prepare donations for processing.

“We’re asking for donations so that the club can accept more glass. There’s a $10 million EPA Community Change Grant that’s only available to nonprofits, so EcoClub works with Island Green and the V.I. Conservation Society, and Compost Connections to form a coalition,” the environmental manager said.

Eco Rotarians have managed public expectations by limiting the hours for glass donations. A wall-mounted sign appearing near the East End thrift shop earlier this year asked donors to drop off between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Saturdays only.

Modified Hours notice seen at Red Hook Plaza (Source photo by Judi Shimel)

Now, that’s been trimmed back again to a 90-minute window between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., followed by a steady grind that produces a sand-like final product.

“We’re making sandbags out of them that we will be giving away during hurricane season,” White said.

Six hundred twenty-nine sandbags so far, he said.