IGLA plans to upgrade its aluminum can crusher soon. Gary “Buddha” Emmons stands at the ReSource Depot on Gift Hill Road.
ST. JOHN — The Island Green Living Association has set a lofty goal for Love City; nothing short of making the island a global model of environmental sustainability.
“We’re trying to position St. John as one of the ‘Greenest’ islands in the world,” said William Willigerod, a St. John architect and IGLA board member. “To do this, we we’re looking at a several step process and recycling is one,” Willigerod said.
IGLA is starting its green campaign with the island’s immediate need of recycling. Three years ago, the group opened the Resource Depot, a place on Gifft Hill where residents can donate and buy reusable building and renovation material. Since opening, the Resource Depot has diverted more than 100,000 pounds out of the St. Thomas landfill, explained Willigerod.
“We’re already recycling at our Resource Depot right now and we’re up to over 110,000 pounds over the past three and a half years,” Willigerod said. “And it keeps getting better and better. We are currently recycling construction materials and household goods ranging from very small things to a brand new hot tub.”
St. John has no landfill of its own and with the St. Thomas and St. Croix landfills ordered by the U.S. Environmental Agency to close by 2020, what to do with Love City’s waste poses a real problem. Since much of the waste generated on St. John could be recycled or composted, IGLA is focusing on reducing the waste stream, starting with a sustainable aluminum can recycling program.
The island’s current aluminum can recycling program was launched by the St. John Community Foundation which used to pick up cans at sites across the island and transport them to a facility on St. Thomas.
SJCF operated the program for several years under a grant from the V.I. Waste Management Authority. That grant, however, was pulled last year and V.I. WMA began overseeing the program themselves, often leaving the collection sites overflowing with cans.
IGLA, in collaboration with SJCF, plans to create a sustainable and even profitable aluminum can recycling program, Willigerod explained.
“We have several things happening,” said Willigerod. “We have two fairly large stakeholders getting ready to adopt us and allow us to bring in an aluminum can crusher for the community.”
“The crusher will allow us to do 600 cans in 60 seconds,” said the IGLA board member. “We’ll be able to fill up a container of recycling material and take it up to the states and make some money rather than send it to St. Thomas.”
The crusher will be operated by photo voltaic power and IGLA plans to keep the collection sites maintained, Willigerod added.
“We want to operate this off the grid to be green and keep costs down,” he said. “We plan to get those sites property maintained too.”
Once aluminum can recycling is up and running, IGLA will look into launching glass and plastic recycling, explained the group’s president Rob Crane.
“We’re starting with cans because they’re the most profitable and we’re confident that we can make a profit with that,” said Crane. “Then we’ll look at either glass, paper or plastic recycling with the idea of getting them all going eventually. We would ultimately be an example for other islands that even though you’re out in the in the middle of nowhere, you can still do this.”
In mid-November, IGLA board members met with Governor John DeJongh and other government officials to launch a partnership to bring a comprehensive recycling program to the island, and locate an affordable site for the can crusher and Resource Depot, Willigerod explained.
“Our objective is for the government to help us identify a site for IGLA where we could potentially relocate the Resource Depot,” he said. “Right now we’re paying $24,000 a year or so and if the government could find us a site, we could save that money.”
“The governor fully supports what we’re doing and he’s trying to find us land,” said Willigerod. “Of course it must be voted on by the Legislature, but if he can get this going, the next governor can pick up on it.”
The government’s help, in the form of government land, will enable IGLA to take a step closer to sustainability by allowing the group to use its funds for recycling objectives, explained Crane.
“We have the Resource Depot and we’re paying money for rent there,” said the IGLA President. “It would be nice to get to a position where we’re not paying rent anymore so the money we make can help offset any other costs. We’re looking for ways to recycle as much as possible and make it so that we’re not relying on grants to run the program.”
IGLA also has even bigger plans, which the group will announce in the next few weeks, Willigerod added.
“For the comprehensive recycling program what we’re trying to do is work with some companies in the states that are environmentally friendly and want to help us with this,” Willigerod said. “It will be a bigger announcement in the next few weeks.”
In the meantime, IGLA, a non-profit group which relies on donations and memberships to operate, will be the recipient of this years’s Coral Bay Golf Open. The mini-golf tournament fundraiser, on Saturday, January 24 at Skinny Legs, will support IGLA’s recycling program.
For more information about IGLA and how to get involved, go to www.igba-stjohn.org