Plastic Recycling in the British Virgin Islands
Guest written by Carrie Wright, founder of VI Plastics
The plastics recycling company in the British Virgin Islands, VI Plastics, is running a crowd-funding campaign to purchase additional equipment. You can help. Please visit their crowdfunding page to learn more.
In previous articles, NauticEd has lamented the lack of recycling in the Caribbean and stressed the importance of responsible management of plastic waste, in particular, that can have damaging effects on the oceans. While there is still much more work to do, in the British Virgin Islands, a public-private partnership now runs a recycling system that collects plastic, glass, and aluminum. In this post, we describe how the recycling system works and how charter guests can help us keep the BVIs clean and green.
The BVI WE RECYCLE Program
The BVI WE RECYCLE program has been initiated and driven forward by the non-profit group, Green VI (greenvi.org), working in partnership with the Department of Waste Management, businesses, and the greater community. The program’s goals are to protect people’s health, create jobs, provide materials for entrepreneurs to make products, and demonstrate best waste management practices. Green VI’s actions include:
- facilitating community recycling bins and collecting and processing recyclables;
- convening and coordinating partners; and
- leading broad awareness and education campaigns.
Green VI is also encouraging green practices with local businesses through a Green certification program and advocating for a plastic ban and container deposit bill.
Currently, recyclables are either upcycled locally or baled and exported for recycling. Two Recycling Centres have been established – one on Virgin Gorda and another on the main island of Tortola. Green VI’s app shows the location of recycling points and captures important data to guide operations and track progress. Public outreach and education are ongoing and local businesses are now pledging to reduce waste, train employees, recycle and contribute to a Green Fund that helps support the recycling system.
Green VI began this recycling initiative with a pilot project on Virgin Gorda in 2017, which helped establish coordination with the Department of Waste Management and assess the overall situation. Tortola joined the initiative last year and, with two Recycling Centres coming on-line and people re-thinking their waste handling habits during CoVID lockdowns, 2020 saw a significant expansion of WE RECYCLE.
VI Plastics is a social enterprise located in the East End of Tortola that recycles plastics. Plastics are ground into small pieces that are extruded into molds in the shape of standard lumber such as 1×2, 1×4, 2×2. These plastic boards are used to build outdoor furniture and other utility products. As part of the expansion of WE RECYCLE, VI Plastics is making new Community Recycling Bins from plastics collected in the territory.
Other private recyclers include Greencrete on Virgin Gorda that makes tiles and landscaping blocks from recycled glass mixed with concrete and shells, and Clean & Green VI Ltd, also on Virgin Gorda, that crushes glass into aggregate for construction uses, such as fill/drainage and road paving.
Beyond plastics and glass, other artists are making use of waste materials that accumulate in the BVI. Nutmeg Designs in Road Town is home to annie macphail™ bags that are handcrafted from salvaged sails and ropes and Aragorn’s Studios in Trellis Bay houses the artist’s workshop where scrap metal is transformed into world-renown works of art. (Visit Trellis Bay for a Full Moon party to see these works at their best!)
WE RECYCLE currently bales and exports aluminum and clear drink bottles (PET plastic) to large recyclers in the United States. VI Plastic aims to recycle PET drink bottles locally in the future, to eliminate the financial and environmental cost of shipping this plastic away to be processed, but the volume of single-use drink bottles is currently too large for the facility to handle. Single-use water bottles litter our land, pollute our waters, fill dumpsites, and severely strain our waste management efforts. A Plastic Ban introduced by Green VI has received initial government approval and includes water bottles, but the immediate solution rests in behavior change. As an interim solution, the PET drink bottles are currently exported to a company that recycles the plastic into new drink bottles.
3 R’s for Charter Guests
When you visit our beautiful islands, please remember the 3 R’s that protect everyone’s health and our fragile environment – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
Reduce & Reuse
- Drink the potable water provided on your boat, or purchase refillable one- gallon water bottles. PLEASE! Do not use single-use plastic water bottles.
- Use boxes (available at most grocery stores) or reusable shopping bags when purchasing provisions;
- Enjoy your drink straight from the glass, bottle or can instead of using a plastic straw; and,
- Use washable food ware or, if you must use disposable containers, visit Green VI’s website for a list of BVI eco-friendly sources.
Rinse your recyclables and separate them into glass, plastic and aluminum. Charter guests may use any of the WE RECYCLE collection points on Tortola or Virgin Gorda. Find these by downloading Green VI’s app or the BVI Now app. Both are free at the Apple or Google app stores.
Support BVI Recycling
- Charter guests can help support this important work by donating to the local not-for-profit Green VI.
- Or consider supporting one of our local recyclers. VI Plastics is currently running a Crowdfunding Campaign to purchase more equipment. The volume of plastics collected in the BVI has increased rapidly in 2020 and they need to grow their facility to keep up with this volume. You can contribute to their crowdfunding campaign until October 9, 2020.
Listen to NauticEd’s podcast on this topic with guest Carrie Wright, CEO of VI Plastics Recycling