Island Groups and Residents Needed To Improve Recycling on St. John

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The St. John Community Foundation needs volunteers to help keep up with the volume of recycling at the island’s collection bins.

With grant funding dried up and the underfunded and understaffed Waste Management Authority leaving recycling bin sites across St. John overflowing, the island’s sole recycling effort needs help.

The only items currently being collected on St. John and trucked to St. Thomas for recycling are aluminum cans. The recycling program was launched by St. John Community Foundation several years ago and has proven so popular, collection sites — located next to dumpsters across the island — are often overflowing.

Several St. John organizations, including SJCF, Rotary Club of St. John and Island Green Living Association, along with residents neighborhood groups, are pitching in to make sure the aluminum can recycling program remains and improves.

When the program was first launched, SJCF and numerous volunteers oversaw the program with a Waste Management Authority Community Enrichment Grant which covered the costs of collecting and trucking the cans.

That grant ran out about a year ago and since then WMA has been responsible for removing the cans from the collection sites, a task which apparently has not been an easy one for the semi-autonomous government-funded authority.

One problem facing WMA’s efforts to keep on top of the collection sites is the fact that many people deposit non-aluminum items in the recycling bins, explained St. John Community Foundation Executive Director Celia Kalousek.

“Although the bins say ‘Aluminum Cans Only,’ people are used to putting all recyclables together for pick up in the states and drop mixed bags of  glass, plastic and cans at the bin sites here,” said Kalousek. “The glass and plastic has to be sorted and thrown out. WMA has been trying to keep up with this, but volunteers are needed to help their understaffed and underfunded efforts.”

Adding to the overflowing problems is the fact that more people are now using fewer collection bins. With staffing problems of their own, V.I. National Park officials recently removed all recycling bins from park land, explained Kalousek.

“The VINP recently removed the recycling bins within the park because they were constantly overflowing and unsightly,” she said. “They are understaffed and cannot keep up with it. I’d been trying to coordinate better pick up scheduling, but that has not worked out well.”

While SJCF officials have been trying to secure funding in order to supply supplemental collection bin maintenance, none has yet come through, Kalousek explained.

“SJCF has been actively searching and applying for grants to supplement these efforts and enable us to reestablish the coordination of an additional weekly bin site maintenance to supplement the current WMA schedule, but nothing has come through yet,” she said. “Everyone is underfunded and understaffed, but we remain hopeful. We need the public’s help!”

With the problem only growing, SJCF’s recycling group met last month and decided to issue a call to the public, according to Kalousek.

“As a result of last month’s meeting we are calling out to the entire general public for their support and assistance in keeping the bin sites clean,” said the SJCF Executive Director. “We discussed having each concerned organization adopt a site and help. We envisioned organizations and businesses adopting a dumpster site, like they Adopt-A-Mile in the states, and keep it clean and litter free.”

“We are making an appeal to all concerned organizations and neighborhood associations to ask their members if they are willing to keep their neighborhood clean by helping,” said Kalousek. “It takes about seven people (and they have their own backups for when they are off island). Each person can adopt a day, and if that day they notice bags that need to be sorted and trash tossed, they do it.”

“With each organization spear-heading the task for one site, it is more manageable since none of the organizations are getting funding for this,” she said.”As they say, ‘Many hands make light work.’ We are hoping that anyone who is upset with the unsightly dumpster sites might be willing to become part of the solution.”

If results of SJCF’s recent community survey are any indication, Kalousek expects the public to come out in force to support the recycling program, she explained.

“Improving recycling on island and a ‘Keep St. John Beautiful’ plan of dumpster area maintenance and litter control were top priorities identified in the recent survey of community impact focuses,” said the SJCF Executive Director. “People want to see recycling continue and improve, so hopefully we can all come to the table and work out a solution.”

SJCF continues to seek funds to add a second day of collection for recycling program as well, Kalousek added.

“We need about $18,000 to add a pick up/clean up circuit to supplement the weekly WMA effort,” she said.

Anyone interested in donating to the SJCF recycling effort can make a check to St. John Community Foundation and write Aluminum Can Recycling on the memo line. Checks can be mailed it to PO Box 1020, St. John, VI, 00831, for receipt of a tax deduction letter. For more information about how to volunteer or adopt a bin site, call Kalousek at SJCF at 693-9410.