As the Virgin Islands moves toward making trash disposal more efficient, the V.I. Waste Management Authority is building new collection centers and expanding curbside residential garbage removal.
To streamline garbage services and to get a handle on what’s being disposed of – and how it’s being done for the sake of the environment and human health – the territory has closed a number of open trash bin sites. The long-term goal is to eliminate all of them.
The VIWMA says more bin sites will close and it will increase residential curbside collection in the coming years. Homes that can’t be served will have to use convenience centers like the newly built one in Mandahl on St. Thomas.
But the Mandahl site is behind schedule for opening and residents aren’t always aware of why and when bin sites will close. If the territory follows through on these plans and keeps the public well informed, the trash system could be transformed for the better.
Bin Site Closures
In order to streamline services, increase efficiencies and discourage illegal dumping, VIWMA is working to eliminate all open bin sites across the territory.
Kysha Wallace, VIWMA’s acting communications manager, said 18 bin sites have closed in approximately the last two years on St. Thomas. The two most recent closures occurred in the Bovoni area on April 15.
According to a VIWMA press release about the closures, “Both bin sites are located within a community that currently receives house-to-house curbside collection. The removal of the two bin sites will represent a cost savings to the authority.”
The 16 other closed bin sites on St. Thomas include Tadpole & West, Smith Bay, Contant, Cassi Hill, Aunt Maude, Mandahl, Frenchtown Carts, Fatman Carts, Happy View, Ulla Muller, Charter House, Smith Bay Carts, Black Point, Kirwan Terrace, McDonald’s Frenchtown and Commandant Gade.
The authority evaluates the closures on a case-by-case basis, so it doesn’t have a specific plan about which sites will be closed next.
Wallace said that once the Mandahl Convenience Center is opened, it will replace the Peterborg open bin sites.
Currently about 3,400 residential units receive house-to-house pickup on St. Thomas, while around 12,500 units do on St. Croix. Wallace said VIWMA is evaluating where home trash collection services could be expanded.
In the next year or so, residents can expect to start paying for trash pickup and disposal through a residential collection fee for the first time ever. The authority is drafting a proposal that will be submitted to the Public Service Commission later in the year.
The fee will cover collection and disposal costs for all residential properties that receive home collection services or use bin sites and convenience centers, while commercial properties will need to self-haul or pay a contractor for trash collection. The proposed tipping fees for commercial waste disposal are now being reviewed by the PSC.
Home-to-house trash collection is currently single-stream, though Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s newly proposed recycling and compost legislation could change this in the future.
Steven Aubin, VIWMA’s interim executive director, said, “Residents are encouraged to properly dispose of household hazardous waste, bulk waste, electronic devices and other special waste in accordance with the authority’s programs and policies.”
The authority’s household hazardous waste program collects household chemicals, used motor oil and electronic devices at centers across the territory. Bulk waste like furniture and appliance should be taken directly to the landfills or convenience centers for disposal.
When Will the Mandahl Convenience Center Open?
Since the territory’s terrain won’t allow for curbside trash collection in all areas, it’s necessary to have convenience centers like the recently constructed one in Estate Mandahl on St. Thomas.
Construction began on the Mandahl Convenience Center in March 2015 after VIWMA purchased land from Mahogany Run Golf Course. The center was originally slated to in March 2016, but the V.I. Water and Power Authority won’t connect the center to the power grid until VIWMA pays off its $3.4 million electricity bill.
“We are currently in discussions with WAPA and remain confident that the matter regarding electrical service will be resolved,” Aubin said.
According to Aubin, the center is still under construction, but it should be open by mid-May. The authority’s engineering team and the building contractors are still completing a few items, including the installation of irrigation lines, security cameras and facility signs, and are making improvements to the drainage swale at the facility.
Once open, the MCC will serve residents in Mandahl, Peterborg, and areas extending from Estates Tabor and Harmony all the way west to Misgunst. The authority decided to locate St. Thomas’s first convenience center there to replace an open bin site and because of the opportunity to buy the land.
Household trash will be compacted at the manned facility to cut down on the space trash takes up in open bins. Full-fledge recycling and compost won’t be available right away, but green waste will be accepted certain days and electronic devices can be recycled. (See “VIWMA Previews Waste Convenience Center at Mandahl Meeting” in Related Links below)
“In the future, as the territory moves towards more aggressive recycling, the centers may expand services,” Aubin said.
While an outside contractor runs the convenience center on St. Croix, VIWMA will run the smaller Mandahl site itself. Aubin said it has the available staffing and equipment, so it doesn’t need to contract the work out.
Past and Future Convenience Centers
The territory’s first waste convenience center opened in Peter’s Rest on St. Croix in April 2013. After three years of being in operation, VIWMA and the operating contractor feel the center has been a success.
“It represents the standard of waste collection service that the V.I. Waste Management Authority endeavors to implement across the territory,” Aubin said.
The Peter’s Rest Convenience Center collects trash, bulk waste, appliances, fluorescent bulbs and electronic devices, as well as aluminum cans for the Boys and Girls Club of St. Croix.
Aubin explained, “The compaction of trash at PRCC has improved efficiency, the level of service available to the community and the site is aesthetically pleasing.
On St. Croix, VIWMA plans to have three or four convenience centers, with ones potentially being placed on the west end, east end and north shore. There are two proposed centers for St. John in the Coral Bay and Cruz Bay areas.
St. Thomas could have between four to six convenience centers. The areas under consideration are Smith Bay, Bournfield, west end, north side and the east end.
“The authority’s main objective is to close the collection system by replacing open bin sites with convenience centers in strategic locations,” Aubin said. “The centers will provide service for areas that have limited or no curbside collection because of terrain.”