This is the third of four Source articles about how recycling is – and isn’t – being accomplished in the U.S. Virgin islands. Previous articles looked at the role taken by government, and by private businesses.
Although the problems of dealing with the territory’s solid waste may seem insurmountable, there are dozens of examples of individuals and community groups taking steps to address the problem.
Residents of St. John are encouraged to use a device mounted on the outside wall of Connections to crush their plastic bottles and bring them to St. Thomas for Saturday collection at Plaza Extra.
The V.I. Children’s Museum, working with the Environmental Association of St. Thomas, the V.I. Green Team, and the Virgin Islands Conservation Society, is collecting plastic bottle caps that can’t be recycled; these are then processed into usable products like bag clips and bowls.
One organization that promotes recycling is Island Green Living Association. In May, the non-profit organization announced it had sent 15,000 pounds of aluminum cans, collected on St. John over a four-year period and crushed primarily by volunteers, to Puerto Rico for recycling. The group netted almost $7,000 for its efforts, money it plans to use one day to construct a Sustainable Living Center.
IGLA hopes to eventually process glass and other recyclable materials into usable products at their quarter-acre site adjacent to the Susannaberg Transfer Station on St. John.
In August, Island Green plans to reopen its popular ReSource Depot, which closed shortly before the 2017 hurricanes hit. The ReSource Depot accepted donations of salvageable construction material, appliances, furniture, and gently-used household goods for resale at minimal cost. The ReSource Depot’s closing was especially painful to residents who scrambled to make repairs and replace lost items following the storms.
Kelly Lawson, who now serves as Island Green’s executive director, said the organization will have to be selective about what items it takes now because its space is limited. The Depot will operate out of two trailers until construction can be completed for the larger Sustainable Living Center.
As part of another initiative, Island Green recently received a $100,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands to purchase a chipper and front-end loader, which will be used to make mulch from vegetative debris. Mulch can be used for landscaping and can be further processed to make compost.
The production of compost is something Island Green has been promoting for years. Harith Wickrema, who serves as president of the non-profit organization, said the territory-wide practice of home composting would cut the solid waste stream sent to the landfills by more than 50 percent.
“It’s not just about recycling waste,” said Wickrema. “Island Green Living Association’s mission has been to make St. John a ‘zero waste’ island, eliminating the need to ship St. John’s trash to St. Thomas.”
Wickrema said he hopes initiatives developed on St. John can serve as a model for the rest of the territory as well as other island nations.