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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, December 3, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesThe Importance of Numbers In Recycling

The Importance of Numbers In Recycling

Dear Source:
Mr. David S. North, who attempted to rebuke my recycling numbers, forgot to take into account the nearly 2 million tourists who visit the Virgin Islands yearly. This fact alone would make the number of people consuming both cans and bottles greatly higher than his assumed 108,000 residents (2000 census figure). A closer figure for the Virgin Islands population is 111,000 (could be much higher, especially when many are "undocumented). At any rate, that's a lot of beverage consumption!
What is really important is the tonnage which goes into our landfills. On average and based upon the imported number of cans which the VI receives at 45million (conservative) per year and where each empty can weighs .54 ounces; this amounts to almost 760 tons of aluminum cans.
The average empty12 oz glass beer bottle weighs 6 ounces or 11 times the weight of aluminum. Assuming only 45million bottles (very conservative, almost every bar serves bottled beer), this amounts to a whopping 8360 tons of beer bottles alone! We can easily assume that those 2 million visitors, many of which are one-day cruisers, will drink at least a couple of beers while they are here (sic). The reality is many, many millions. Let's not forget the bottles or rum, vodka, whiskey, glass condiments, glass soda and the multitude of other glass containers we purchase and throw away in the dumpsters. Further, the 45million bottles or cans amount to about 1.1 beers or a can of soda a day for the population; again-pretty darn conservative by VI standards.
Where recycling is concerned, it's important to get the numbers straight. Mr. North correctly explained that we have to export our recyclables because we don't have recycling facilities in the VI. This is a very costly fact and one we have been paying a king's ransom for. It is far better to have a "closed-loop" system where we capture imported products and re-use them right here in the VI. In order to do that, we have to know what's coming in and how much we are losing in revenue when we have to ship it back out or waste it in landfills. Recyclers like me and many others keep track of these figures although admittedly difficult to establish with exact certainty.
Until we have private businesses, in partnership with the government, take on the recycling issue and find ways to re-use products, we will be stuck having to ship out (at a high cost) wasted recyclable materials so that some other private entity can profit from it.
I like numbers too but sadly, the amount of recyclables that are wasted in the VI is far too high a number to sustain for any length of time. This is why grass-roots, volunteer organizations are doing their part to help and to track what we do.

Paul Devine
St. John

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to visource@gmail.com.

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