St. John residents can still drop their aluminum cans at island dumpster sites thanks to the efforts of the volunteer St. John Recyclers, at least for now.
The group has “muddled” through without grant funding over the past year, struggling to keep up with piles of bags loaded with aluminum cans waiting to be transported to St. Thomas for recycling, according to Paul Devine, a member of the St. John Community Foundation board of directors.
Devine was the sole attendee at a V.I. Waste Management Authority public meeting on its Community Enrichment Grant (CEG) program on Thursday evening, October 13, at the St. John Battery.
Under its CEG program WMA is able to appropriate $50,000 twice a year — there are two six-month grant cycles starting in April and again in November — to all three islands.
St. John Recyclers needs that money, explained Devine.
“We want that grant,” he said. “We have to keep the recycling going and we need that money for trucking services, for new bins and bags and a variety of things.”
St. John Recyclers was formed in 2008 and started collecting aluminum cans across the island in 2009 under an agreement with WMA. The group received funding from WMA’s CEG program in 2009, but missed out on last year’s cycles of grants.
While it was unclear why St. John Recyclers didn’t receive the grant in the November 2009 cycle, the group’s April 2010 application was denied because it was missing information, according to WMA’s district environmental programs manager Cordell Jacobs.
“There were questions about their application,” Jacobs said about the St. John recycling group. “We can’t give a grant without having these budget details. There were bottom lines that weren’t adding up and we needed to have that corrected.”
WMA officials issued a list of questions still remaining about the grant application to the St. John Community Foundation, which acts as St. John Recyclers’ fiduciary, Jacobs added.
The only St. John group which was awarded funding under the CEG program during the previous cycle was the Gifft Hill School which was given $2,000 for beach and environmental clean-up efforts, according to Jacobs.
The Sisterhood Agenda had also applied for WMA’s CEG, but the group was denied because its planned project — erecting a wall around the Cruz Bay roundabout — was out of scope with the grant guidelines, Jacobs explained.
Even with its spotty funding, the St. John Recyclers have made a big difference on the island. Since the volunteer recycling effort launched in August 2009, the group estimates that it has taken about one and half million cans out of the island’s waste stream, Devine explained.
Volunteers agree to “adopt” collection areas and transport the cans from their site to a central collection site at Enighed Pond Marine Facility, to eventually be transported to St. Thomas for recycling. The recyclers’ Enighed Pond storage area, however, was the source of the latest woe for the group.
St. John Recyclers learned on Monday, October 11, that the group had to relocate its container from the V.I. Port Authority owned land at Enighed by Thursday, October 13, in anticipation of the area being paved, Devine explained.
“We only had two days notice that we had to move the container,” said Devine. “And now we’re not sure if we’ll be welcome back after the paving is complete.”
For now, St. John Recyclers is storing its cache of cans on private property in Estate Grunwald but hoping to be able to either return to the Enighed Pond area or relocate to an area near the Susanaberg Transfer Station, explained Devine.
“If we could extend our agreement with WMA and remain at Enighed that would be great,” he said. “Or we would ideally like to have a permanent place at Susanaberg where we could keep our containers in a more central location.”
St. John Recyclers and WMA have successfully worked together for years and will hopefully continue their relationship in the future, Devine added.
“We depend on WMA for a lot of things,” he said. “They allow us to put our bins at the dumpster sites and have been a good partner. We have had good luck working with WMA and we hope to continue to do so.”
To find out how to help the St. John recycling effort call Celia Kalousek at the St. John Community Foundation at 693-9410. For more information about WMA’s CEG program call the authority at 777-3073.