Hearings on Solid Waste Reform

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 | 9:00am
V.I. Legislature

Solid waste reforms to come before Legislature June 14th. Bills will mandate recycling, limit plastic bags, help reduce trash stream.

The 31st Legislature will host hearings on vital solid waste reforms beginning at 9 a.m. on June 14, 2016 in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Chambers on St. Thomas. The public is encouraged to attend and participate.

Governor Kenneth E. Mapp is urging the community to demonstrate their support for this long overdue and critical legislation to better manage solid waste in the Virgin Islands. The three bills will be heard in the 31st Legislature’s Committee on Housing, Public Works & Waste Management. The Governor’s proposals, sent down to the Legislature in early February, will limit the use of plastic bags, mandate recycling and help reduce both litter and the territory’s overall waste stream.

It’s crucial that the public understand and support these important measures as we must change the way we all handle trash and refuse, Governor Mapp said.

“Much of what is being proposed has already been implemented on a national level and has proven to be quite successful,” he said. “It is a matter of raising awareness.”

Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dawn Henry assisted in drafting the legislation, which also has the strong support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“This is a very comprehensive approach and our goals are aggressive,” Commissioner Henry said following the 31st Legislature’s receipt of the bills. “Taken together these measures will help us reduce our waste stream with the ultimate goal of keeping our landfills open. People have been calling for recycling and waste reduction measures for quite some time. We have delivered a solid plan to move forward in this regard.”

Commissioner Henry said the legislation has been broken down into three separate components and each includes measures for public education:

The Plastic Bag Regulation bill requires businesses and organizations to utilize reusable bags or compostable plastic bags with the goal of eliminating plastic bags at point of sale check outs. It is estimated that as much as 10 percent of all litter consists of these bags with even more ending up in our waters, where plastic bags can choke sea life and the chemicals in the plastics can break down and enter our food chain. Plastic bags will still be allowed where no acceptable substitute exists such as wrapping prepared foods or meats.

The Comprehensive Waste Reduction Program maximizes recycling and composting territory-wide and includes a redemption value on every beverage container sold in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The measure will help reduce litter and a tracking system will be developed in order to ensure that any product entering the territory will meet labeling and redemption requirements.

The Source Separation bill represents a comprehensive overhaul of Virgin Islands solid waste management and disposal practices. This proposal requires everyone who generates waste in this territory to be responsible for separating recyclables from their trash with the goal of reducing the waste stream. It also mandates that the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority develop a plan for the collection and delivery of these recyclables.