After a year-long series of meetings and growing momentum, plans for the long-discussed St. John glass recycling plant are being drastically altered.
The plant — which was scheduled to be open this past summer — was originally planned to be located on rent-free property at The Westin Resort and Villas, be run by two Westin employees and be maintained by two Gallows Point Resort employees.
A St. John Recycling Committee, under the auspices of the St. John Community Foundation, was established and members created business and education plans for the recycling program. After meeting regularly every month last year, no committee meetings have been announced since April.
Local glass blower Ron Keel was on board to manage the facility and architect Terry Fields was recruited to design the structure to house the plant.
No Longer at the Westin
Although some aspects of the plan are still in place, the facility will no longer be at the Westin.
“We’re moving the site from the Westin to the Gifft Hill School,” said St. John Community Foundation executive director Carole DeSenne. “We’re still working out all the details, but the students there are going to be involved. The school mentioned this to the foundation and we think it’s going to work out great.”
While DeSenne offered no explanations for the relocation, St. John Community Foundation board member Rob Crane said the Gifft Hill School’s property is better suited for a glass recycling facility.
“I think it will be a better location because the land we were going to be using at the Westin is a low-land which would be subject to flooding in heavy rains,” he said. “The land at Gifft Hill School will be better. Secondly, by putting it up there at the school the students can help run the program as part of their curriculum.”
Students Will Help Run Facility
Westin and Gallows employees will still initially run and maintain the facility, but Gifft Hill School students will eventually learn the process, Crane added.
Since the plant is still short a number of pieces of equipment, including a sorter and extractor, the move won’t be difficult, Crane continued.
“We haven’t set the equipment up yet anyway and we don’t have all the equipment yet, so it won’t be difficult to move,” he said.
Keel and Fields are still expected to manage and design the facility and the committee will meet again shortly at the new location, Crane explained.
“We have to meet up at the site and determine the exact location of the facility on the school’s eight acres of land,” he said.
Funding Still Questionable
Although expected funding that fell through further delayed the opening of the facility, private investors Bellows International and the West Indies Company were “very interested” in the project, DeSenne said in a March interview with the St. John Tradewinds.
There is no new information about whether those companies would fund the project or not.
Recycling Committee officials also have not presented their business plan to the V.I. Waste Management Authority, from whom they are hoping to receive a partial grant, DeSenne said.
“We’ll be scheduled to be on their agenda in the next couple of months,” she said.
The glass recycling facility — which is being designed as a for-profit business — will produce crushed glass that can be used be used in a variety of artistic practices, construction, landscaping and architectural capacities.
No Date for Opening
There is no date for the opening of the facility, but Crane said he hoped it to be operational “within a year or so.”
“In order to work the kinks out,” once the plant is operational, the facility will still be open initially only to resorts, Crane explained.
“We’ll still start with the resorts and then expand,” he said. “We want to be sure we can unload the product — which I don’t think will be a problem. Then, we’ll open to restaurants and then the public.”
Originally, receptacles were planned to be placed across the island, as the facility was not going to be open for the public to drop off glass. That too has changed.
“Now, it’s going to be more open to the public, so it will make it easier to negotiate,” said Crane. “We’ll still have receptacles, but people will now be able to come up to the facility and drop off glass as well.”
Gifft Hill School head administrator Ben Biddle did not return calls from the St. John Tradewinds requesting comment and Westin managing director Graeme Davis was not on island last week. The next St. John Glass Recycling Committee meeting has not been announced.