I read the response of David S. North today about his criticism of Paul Devine's figure on the amount of bottles that drain into the territory. Normally I would have passed over it, especially as he, Paul, and I are all in equal agreement that bottles should be properly reused and/or recycled in the Virgin Islands. However, I found his number crunching to be severely skewed as he based the population of bottle tossers solely on the resident population of the Virgin Islands. It turns out that's a little unfair. And here's why.
What Mr. North missed was the over 2.6 million visitors to the territory each year, according to the most recent VI Bureau of Economic Research numbers. His calculations showed that if it were only within the 108,000 official residents of the USVI, it would take each resident to dispose of 4 and a half bottles every day to equal Devine's estimate of 180,000 bottles per year. It sounds incredible, and it should be, as it ignores the majority of human presence in the territory. Tourists are generally more consumptive than residents since they are on vacation, and have a fondness for beer and rum, both of which comes bottled regularly. Of course not all tourists drink, but we all know that there are some who do more than make up for the rest. Witness the full trashcans at the beaches, the overflowing dumpsters at restaurants, and even littoral seaglass, which has become more common than conch shells and crabs even at the most remote beaches in the territory. The number of glass bottles is beside the point. The point is that it's a pervasive problem that needs to be shattered. Clearly, this issue goes beyond the everyday USVI resident, although responsibility still squarely rests with the resident community to clean up after its guests – and itself.
This raises an interesting point about the capacity of landfills in the USVI and whose responsibility it is to deal with recyclable materials. Clearly, it's everyone's responsibility, but where does the buck stop? The benefit of Mr. North's analysis is that we see that if
Devine's estimate is indeed correct, then it is clearly not due solely to Virgin islanders. Yet, action must be taken by the local community to protect its natural resources, since the VI community cannot rely on the visitors to take their recyclables home with them.
Perhaps the answer to these questions lie in new creative approaches to suit the unique insular issues that the VI's face. In many houses I see cups full of sea glass, beautiful mosaics made with the material, and incorporation of bottle art into landscaping. Perhaps we could indeed process glass here into useful products for the island, such as gravel, concrete fill material, or even as art materials for crafts that could be sold back to the tourists that brought them effectively selling the bottle twice. Indeed, huge challenges exist for a real workable creative solution (or solutions). Yet we need to think outside of the bottle to keep it out of the already overflowing landfills. Need inspiration while you figure the solution out? Then just drive down Queen Mary highway to the Rising Stars Steel Band rehearsals. Listen to what the creativity of Trinidad has done with all those steel drums. To them, I raise my glass, and offer a toast to small island ingenuity.
Creque Dam Farm
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