Green VI's Garrett Wheeler explains glass recycling to a group of children at the glass studio in Cane Garden Bay.
Photo Credit: Gordon French/BVI Platinum News
The Virgin Islands is waiting and hoping that a proposal to access a $2 million grant through the United Kingdom´s Darwin Initiative will be approved to establish a rigorous recycling program for the Territory.
Charlotte McDevitt, Executive Director of Green VI confirmed that the proposal was submitted last week. She explained that the BVI is seeking to set up material recovery systems (MRS) on all the main islands and a response from the UK agency should be received by March.
"This proposal is based on the partnership model. It´s a partnership between Green VI, the BVI government and the Rotary Groups of the BVI. Together we all run the project and we will also help to fund the project. With Darwin Trust the proposal is for two years and we are asking them for approximately $1 million each year and then we will match that $1 million so we need to raise the same amount of funds that they give us," McDevitt explained.
She further explained that equipment will be installed and specific receptacles placed at various points to receive cans, bottles, plastic and paper. According to McDevitt, the plan is to install the receptacles at restaurants, hotels, marinas, schools and institutions like government buildings, airports and the college.
She stated that the receptacles will be at controlled sites and not along the roadside as current receptacles are placed.
"It would be a mixed recycling collection. There will be two recycling bins. One for all the recyclables - the paper and cans - and the other one would be for glass. And there will be different collection system for glass and a different one for the mixed waste because they will be processed differently. Solid Waste Department will be doing that collection; they will be covering the cost of that and that is where they are coming in as a partner," McDevitt stated.
Ship Recyclables Overseas
McDewitt explained that the plan is to process glass on island by using crushed pieces as aggregate while most of the other waste streams would be shipped overseas for recycling. McDevitt pointed to the opening of a recycling market in Puerto Rico within another year which will make the shipping more viable.
She maintained that shipping the recyclables overseas is the best option as the BVI does not have paper mills to process paper waste. The mills, she explained, use a lot of water and the BVI does not have a lot of water.
She stated that to process cans, especially aluminum, is a very toxic process.
"It's an industrial process and we don´t have the industry required for that. We don´t have the space and funding. It's not a good idea to manage those waste here; they are way too toxic and they need to be managed properly in a first world setting. There are certain waste products we will deal with here. We will deal with glass here and we will deal with the organic fraction. The organic fraction is 30 to 40 percent of the waste stream so that will either be taken into energy or it will become compost. So the waste streams that we can deal with here we will. You always look at what you can do here first, but the stuff that you can´t you ship it," McDewitt stated.
She added that they are also hoping to create jobs as well and small enterprises similar to Green VI.
McDewitt said as part of the proposal there is funding for education and awareness.
"I think the BVI has no choice; the landfills are full and you don´t have the option for more," McDewitt stated.
Need For More Funding
She stated that after the first two years of funding, the system would still needs to be subsidized because it will never be able to support itself which is why recycling is a difficult program.
"The long term plan for the system to look after itself is through the Ministry of Health. They had put out a tender for solid waste management plan for the territory and in that plan you draft the management of solid waste in the Territory. Usually what happens is that you put in levies for certain waste streams like tires and batteries and you can put in bottle bills and it would be those fees that would be used to support the recycling system in the long term," McDewitt stated.
She added, "I think if we get the bottle bills right and then there is value to it, you wouldn´t see bottles thrown out of windows anymore because someone will be picking them up and taking them to the stores for their refund. I know that the restaurants and hotels that we are speaking to are all ready to do it and that is where these items are mostly generated and I believe that is a big portion of the population here who are ready and for those who are not it's going to take time; its not an overnight thing."
She believes that more people are ready for recycling than those who are not and those who are not will catch up quickly.