March 30, 2004 – Closing down the Anti-litter and Beautification Commission's recycling programs in the territory will have long-range ramifications, as one Virgin Islander sees it: "Look into the future and see how much waste we are creating," St. John resident Emily Burton said.
The commission announced on Friday that because of the Legislature's having tapped the ALBC Fund numerous times to pay for projects not related to cleaning up the territory, its recycling and other programs would be shut down for lack of money.
The Senate diverted ALBC money to Education and Public Works Department projects as well as the newly authorized Waste Management Authority. It also funneled anti-litter funds into the Retirement System Mortgage Loan Fund, the Water and Power Authority, the library and museum publication program, the Amateur Basketball Association, a Julian Jackson retirement dinner, repairing the St. Thomas abattoir, hiring six new firefighters and purchasing a new pump truck for the Cotton Valley Fire Station, acquiring VITRAN bus parts and paying for a new fence and books for Ivanna Eudora Kean High School.
"None of these things are our mandate," ALBC's executive director, Cordell Jacobs, said. "The public has been let down. We didn't expect this to happen."
A release issued by the commission following a meeting with Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull and other Finance Department officials stated that the ALBC members and staff did not know that money from their operating budget had been used for other purposes. But the reprogramming, it said, has left the commission with no money to operate.
Recycling had just resumed Feb. 11 on St. Thomas and Feb. 18 on St. John after a hiatus of more than a year because of funding problems. (See "Recycling returns to the island Feb. l8".)
The money to fund Anti-Litter and Beautification Commission projects comes from a tax on beverage bottles and cans that consumers have been paying since it was enacted in the early 1990s. "That's our money and [it] should be going for recycling," Burton said.
The recycling programs provided for individuals to be paid a fixed amount per pound for recyclable items they took to collection centers. Thus, people have had three incentives to recycle: to avoid littering, to put the used materials to new use and to receive payment for doing so.
Some residents have said they will gladly take cans, bottles and other items to recycling collection points even if they don't get paid, because they are committed to the first two incentives. But Jacobs has said that many Virgin Islands residents do it for the money — and that if they won't get paid, they will just put their recycleables in the trash.
When — or if — the recycling programs will restart is anyone's guess. Jacobs said earlier Monday that a meeting would be held in the afternoon at Government House to discuss the issue. He could not be reached later for comment on what took place at the meeting.
Besides once again discontinuing its recycling programs on St. Thomas and St. John, the ALBC shut down the Neighborhood Improvement Program on St. Thomas and the youth summer employment programs on St. Thomas and St. John and terminated the St. John street-sweeping program.
On St. Croix, ALBC projects that have now lost funding include the CARE program, all environmental education activities and the Greenhouse program. With the Greenhouse program closed, institutional homes for children and the elderly on St. Croix will no longer get weekly donations of fresh produce.
Carole DeSenne, executive director of the St. John Community Foundation, said the organization expected funding from the commission for maintenance of gardens planted around Cruz Bay, for the cleanup program and for its glass recycling program about to get under way at the Westin Resort. "It's certainly going to affect St. John," she said.
DeSenne said the St. John foundation will campaign to get the programs back on track. "We'll make it a public issue," she said.
On St. Thomas, Jacobs said, H&V Recycling will continue to accept items for recycling at its Smith Bay location, but contributors won't get paid. No one returned a telephone call to H&V requesting confirmation of this information.
Burton said that with the St. John recycling program back in operation, items had been piling up at her residence to be dropped off. But she said a roommate took them all to a public trash bin after hearing that the program had ground to a halt again.
As government employees the ALBC staff members will continue to get paid, but members of the commission, contractors and consultants will not.
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