Nov. 12, 2005The principal method of solid waste disposal in the territory is land fillingwhich is why recyclable items such as aluminum cans, lead acid batteries, computers, and cellular phones are piling up at dump sites instead of being reused, according to Charmin Springer, Environmental Programs specialist with the V.I. Waste Management Authority.
Springer, along with representatives from Planning and Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency, talked about this and other solid waste facts at a Recycling Fair held Saturday at the Fort Christian parking lot on St. Thomas. Starting at 10 a.m., the fair attracted only a handful of residents for the better part of the morning.
Once there however, attendees were able to learn about recycling options in the territory and take advantage of free used oil disposal facilities set up for the event. Currently located at landfills and other WMA sites, these stations allow private individuals who generate five gallons or less of oil per month to dispose of used oil on their own.
Springer said residents were also welcome to bring any electronic waste, such as computers or cellular phones, for disposal.
"These items arent really thrown away, though," she said. "They are actually shipped off island to various companies to be reused. Things like old CPUs, anything electronic, take years upon years to decompose, and release toxic chemicals into the ground. So, were trying to encourage people to bring that kind of stuff to us to be recycled."
Cellular phones sitting at dump sites can take up to ten centuries to decompose, Kysha Wallace, education specialist at Planning and Natural Resources, added. "And during that time toxins from the phonesuch as arsenic, mercury, and zincare released also released into the ground and water supply," she said.
To combat this problem, DPNR implemented a program in September which deals with the proper disposal of cell phones and printer cartridges. "Disposal stations are found at each DPNR office and library in the territory. Residents bringing old cell phones can leave them at the station for DPNR to pick up, and residents bringing old printer cartridges can take a free postage-paid envelope, place the used printer cartridge inside, and drop it in the mailbox. Its that simple," Wallace said.
Cartridges will go to AAA Environmental Services offices on the mainland to be reused, she said, and any money which DPNR gets from the recycling will go toward our local libraries.
Wallace added DPNR is currently working with two cellular phone companies in the territory to set up a similar method of disposal.
The WMA is also doing other activities to promote recycling awareness, Springer said. An aluminum can collecting contest is currently ongoing in local schools, and partnerships have been formed between the organization and local businesses such as Western Auto and HH Tires to facilitate lead acid battery disposal.
Springer said the Authority is also gearing up for America Recycling Day on Nov. 15 by participating in such events as the Ecological Fair held on St. John last week, and coordinating a Greenhouse Program which gives residents a chance to win plants when they correctly answer environmental trivia questions broadcast every week on various radio programs.
To show residents exactly what recycling can do, the WMA booth at the recycling fair had items such as notebooks and crayons which were made out of discarded materials. There were also rulers made out of old currency, and pencils made out of throw-a-way blue jeans.
Keshema M. Abramson, a life scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency, had pamphlets and poster-boards showing how plastics can be recycled to make ski jackets, rugs, and bath-time toys such as rubber duckies.
"Theres really very little recycling being done in the territory," Abramson said. "And we definitely need to be doing a lot better so we can protect the environment we live in. We need some recycling facilities down here, but until that happens, all we can do is educate people as much as we can about the benefits of recycling."
For example, improper battery disposal can lead to the introduction of toxins into soil and groundwater, she said. "Now, wouldnt it be better to go to a facility which can reuse those batteries, so it doesnt have any negative impact on our land or people?"
Residents on St. Croix will also get the chance to participate in the Recycling Fair, which will be held at the Sunny Isle Shopping Center on Nov. 19.
"It really is important that we spread this message," Springer said. "We need to clean up our environment, get the recyclable items out of the landfills. Thats the only way we can ensure the preservation of our natural resources."
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