St. John Community Foundation, which has overseen the operations of the current St. John Aluminum Can Recycling program started by volunteers in 2007, has accumulated over $8000 of unreimbursed recyclable collection expenses. An amendment to the original contract was executed in January of this year, stating that Waste Management Authority extended the contract period thru July of 2013, and had allocated $12,000 of unexpended and unobligated funds to fulfill the contract. (see attached signed agreement)
“We acted in good faith and continued the collection process, even though Waste Management Authority had not released the funds. I believed them. I thought we were partners in this recycling effort, which is the longest running most successful recycling program in all of the Virgin Islands!.” said Celia Kalousek, Director of the St. John Community Foundation. “When asked about the release of funds, I was told they were in the process of moving their offices and in transition, but they would get to it as soon as possible.”
The goals listed in the Waste Management Community Enrichment Grant application of, “increasing awareness, beautification and resource recovery in the Virgin Islands, and establishing long term environmental protection projects that will have a sustained impact on the environment” were clearly spelled out. St. John Community Foundation, members of the St. John Recyclers, and volunteers around St. John fully supported this movement towards a variety of reduce, reuse, recycling and environmental concentrations.
This 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, St. John proved otherwise. “We changed minds. Residents, vacationers, all major St. John resorts, local businesses, the National Park and numerous other environmental organizations, are behind our Reduce, Reuse, and Recycling efforts”. The organization won the 2011 U.S. EPA Environmental Quality Award for “outstanding commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality and public health” and volunteer Barb Douma was invited to New York to accept the award.
- Approximately 35-37% of all aluminum cans entering St. John are being diverted from the already bulging landfills by this program. As of the end of 2012, we reached the 22.9 ton collection mark. That is over 1 million cans (1,334,468).
- As of the end of 2012, in-kind volunteer donations in time, equipment and materials have surpassed $500,000.
- The thrust of the Contracted Agreement with Waste Management Authority was for trucking services that provides 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.
“We were so excited about the progress that this program has made. 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.”
Now, St. John Community Foundation may be forced to remove the aluminum can collection bins and hope that residents may be willing to hold onto their cans until a solution can be formulated. “I hate the idea of the cans being thrown into the trash, where Waste Management will still have to incur the expense of carrying the to the dump.
Public awareness and education about the importance of recycling has been the focus of the Waste Management Authority’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee, consisting of 5 representatives from St. John, 5 from St. Thomas and 5 from St. Croix. Sharon Caldron, Gary Ray, Doug White, Rick Barksdale, and Celia Kalousek have represented St. John at monthly meetings in St. Thomas to help Waste Management make plans for the future dump closures. “This is certainly a huge setback in my opinion, ”said Kalousek, “Here on St. John, we have our residents and visitors separating recyclables. Now what? We just say never mind. Don’t worry about it. It is obviously not that high on Waste Management’s priority list? That would be a real shame, because we’ve all told them how important it is, but now it appears there is no back up to support that.”