There is a simple, equitable solution to funding a waste-management authority: Everybody pays to dispose of their waste, with the cost determined solely by how much solid waste they create.
Here’s the way it works – and we know it works because it’s a model developed successfully in Germany. You buy an official garbage bag to dispose of your trash. The bag looks very much like your standard brown paper bag except that it’s lined with a wax paper-type material. It’s about 3 feet high, costs about $3 and is the only legal method for disposing of household garbage.
If you create less garbage, you use fewer bags. This encourages composting, recycling, compacting and a more acute level of consciousness about wasteful packaging.
In the Virgin Islands, compliance might be tricky, at least initially, but that’s not an insurmountable obstacle. We’d recommend a strong public education campaign before the program is implemented and continuing once it’s in place. Clearly we’d need to post regulators at the islands’ dump sites – maybe even provide little air-conditioned shacks for them – and do regular spot checks at late-night hours. Encourage the citizenry to take down license plate numbers of violators and report them to a special Public Works hotline. And penalize violators with steep fines.
At the landfill, implement and strictly enforce tipping fees. That way businesses or people who create the greatest waste will pay the most. To combat the problem of midnight dumpers, either secure the islands’ dumps properly or station a watchman at each entrance. Again, impose heavy fines for violators.
After collecting enough fees to support the waste-management authority, any additional revenues would roll over into the General Fund.
This program – if properly administered – could be in place in a matter of months. Seems to us it’s worth a try.
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