The territory could be only months and a few million dollars away from not only reducing its landfills’ trash by 70 percent, but in doing so creating jobs and an entirely new economic driver for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The V.I. Waste Management Authority will soon announce plans for the purchase of a system by an Argentine company, Zewan Waste Transformation Systems, that promises to reduce the content of the landfill and convert it into a material that can be made into a variety of useful products.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. hinted at the move in his State of the Territory address in January.
“As we move rapidly forward to the closing date for both the Anguilla and Bovoni landfills, the V.I. Waste Management Authority will announce in the coming weeks the award for a municipal solid waste reduction and treatment system that will reduce, and render inert, at least 70 percent of the waste currently presented at the landfills. This is a solution we have been waiting for over 30 years,” Bryan said in his address.
In an interview several weeks later, Bryan said several of the ideas he launched during the two-hour address had not yet found funding sources. But in a recent special meeting of the V.I. Waste Management Authority Board of Directors, the Authority was given approval to move forward with obtaining the new technology with the caveat that a certain amount of funding to start the process needed to be in place.
WMA Director Adrian Taylor is confident he can find the mobilization money of $1.5 million and a few months’ worth of operational costs the board is asking for in order to give the go-ahead to bring the technology to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Taylor brought home information about the new technology last fall after seeing the new technology begin used in Argentina for himself.
With lifelong, firsthand experience with landfills and having spent his childhood on the back of a dump truck – his father owned a landfill – Taylor said he had never seen anything to compare, both functionally and financially, to the Zewan system.
“I’ve seen things in Canada,” he said recently in a phone interview, “but those systems run in the hundreds of millions.”
But there’s more to the system than waste reduction alone.
With tourism being the territory’s major economic driver – and having seen recently the precarious nature of that business – the technology that could save the V.I. landfills from closure, also has the potential to create a more diversified economy using the byproduct for manufacturing a number of different and needed commodities: bricks and tiles for starters.
What is even better is that the waste reduction is done with zero emissions.
The Zewan system uses friction and steam to produce a fluffy, cotton-like fiber, Taylor said. It is that clean fiber that holds the promise of economic diversity.
Taylor learned of the system when local entrepreneur Jimez Ashby, owner of A-9, the company that operates the St. Thomas and St. Croix landfills, responded to a request for a proposal for trash reduction last September. Soon thereafter, Taylor and Ashby went to Argentina to visit the Zewan operation.
After months of wrangling, WMA was unable to negotiate an acceptable agreement with A-9 and decided to deal directly with the Argentinian company.
“We saved a lot of money by going directly to Zewan,” Taylor said.
Each machine will run about $6 million, he said. Two eventually will be needed for the territory’s two landfills – Bovoni on St. Thomas and Anguilla on St. Croix. The plan would begin at the Anguilla Landfill, where a consent decree since 2006 threatens closure of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport due to hazardous conditions that have already caused near misses when birds circling the dump have flown into airplane engines. Meanwhile, Anguilla, which is on fire again, is closed.
Being able to reduce the trash volume will add 10 years to the life of the new landfill in Estate Pearl on St. Croix and another seven or eight years to the Bovoni landfill after the expansion takes place.
And the pasteurized byproduct not only can be used to make bricks, tiles and an asphalt-like substance for use in potholes, but it can also be used to cover the old landfills at a much reduced cost.
Taylor, who said he has always been proud to be in trash said, “I am determined to see this project through to its completion.”