Feb. 10, 2006 — During a daylong conference sponsored by the V.I. Waste Management Authority, about 60 residents and various public officials put their heads together Friday to try and come up with plans to manage the territory's waste.
Answers to waste problems are especially needed for St. Croix, which is facing the closure of the Anguilla landfill next year.
Held at the Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino, the conference provided a venue for federal waste management representatives and local environmentalists to brainstorm and talk to residents about possible solutions for a comprehensive – and effective – waste management plan.
Buddy Himes, founder of Himes Service Co. in Waco, Texas, was one of the first of nine speakers at the conference and suggested that the territory look into purchasing material recovery facilities (MRFs), which function to remove recyclable materials from trash after it has been collected. Himes said once the reusable materials have been removed, they are sorted and placed into special bins or storage areas to be bundled and shipped to countries all over the world.
"What happens is, the MRF will sort out things like aluminum, plastic, metal – all those materials which can be reused," Himes explained after the conference. "Each material has its own storage area, and once the area is filled, the materials are tied into bails to be sold to countries which have a market for certain types of recyclable materials. India, for example, is buying up a lot of paper right now. So, if we were to collect paper here, then that's something that could be purchased by another country like India."
Himes further stated that packaging recyclable materials will also help the territory reduce the amount of trash dumped at local landfills, which saves space and extends the landfill's life expectancy.
While the process may sound fast and simple, Himes said there are many other outside factors to determine whether or not having an MRF in the territory is a good idea.
"Obviously if you're trying to sell a certain resource, you have to make sure there's a market for it," he said after his presentation. "If the V.I. decides to collect aluminum cans, and there's no market for aluminum cans, then those materials are just going to be sitting in storage until there is a market for them, and that uses up money. So marketing is a big factor in having one of these."
Other presenters also stressed the importance of creating marketing networks before implementing a new waste management system. "You really have to think about things like who you're going to collect trash from and what kind of trash you're going to collect, how often trash collection is going to be offered, and where your sites are going to be – things like that," Randy Brown, executive director of Clean Islands International, said during the conference.
Elizabeth Ban, from the V.I. Marine Advisory Service, said another critical marketing aspect is getting more community members aware of and participating in waste management efforts. "It's not enough to say you're going to do something – you have to get the whole community involved," Ban said. "And to do that, you have to get to know the various groups here and target them based on their interests. You have to tell them how recycling is going to make their lives better."
To illustrate her points, Ban told residents attending the conference that the Marine Advisory Service has embarked on many environmental cleanup campaigns. "In one of our recent coral reef campaigns, we looked at local demographics and came up with seven target groups, like teenagers and churchgoers. For teenagers, we looked at the type of places they hang out and decided maybe we could have a rap contest where they write a song about coral reef conservation and win a prize. You have to motivate people so they want to clean up."
In terms of other possible challenges, Himes said funding may also be a problem for the territory, especially since recycling waste is more expensive than landfilling. "You may need to get government support on something like this," he said. "The French government, for example, completely subsidizes MRFs in Guadeloupe and Martinique since they're French territories."
After the conference, May Adams-Cornwall, executive director of the Waste Management Authority, said obtaining financial support from the V.I government might not be that easy. "We don't have the money to do things like this right now," she said after the conference. "I would like to have an MRF, and I think that we could look into expanding our recycling services, but the bottom line is that we need more funding if we want to have effective waste management in the territory. That's just a fact."
In terms of outlining a waste management plan for St. Croix, Adams-Cornwall said she is going to leave the decision up to the members of the WMA's citizen advisory committees – contingencies of local residents who represent the interests of the territory and help the authority in making various waste-related decisions.
On Friday, 32 out of the territory's 46 citizen advisory members participated in the conference.
Other topics discussed Friday included possible methods of turning waste materials into energy sources, how to manage a landfill and factors of environmental health in waste management.
Adams-Cornwall said after Friday's presentations members of St. Croix's citizen advisory committee were gathering to finalize a waste management plan for the island.
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