Alternative Ways to Handle Trash

Dear Source:
As a concerned consumer, I have to take exception toward the new proposal by The Waste Management Authority to create a taxing system on all goods entering the Virgin Islands, based on weight. It is my understanding that this tax is intended to create a $36M fund to be used to dispose of waste. To date, I, nor anyone else, has not heard any proposal as to what the WMA will do with the money. No mention of what the bureaucratic ramifications of collecting the revenues and the exemptions to the tax that may be proposed have been given. Without these issues brought to light, the WMA is attempting to ask the citizens of the Virgin Islands to foot the bill yet again for the faults of a government that has taken no action on the issue of waste management in recent memory. What the government did do is create an autonomous agency to relieve the Dept. of Public Works (the agency of government formally cited as being responsible to clean up the mess) from the responsibility of solving our federally mandated clean-up and disposal methods of our waste.
I believe, as most Virgin Islanders do, that this plan could never be workable, will have an enormous economic impact on every Virgin Island business and would drive up prices on all goods sold in the Virgin Islands, including those sold to visitors thus affecting our largest industry-tourism.
What we do know is that the problem of disposing of waste had been a pervading problem for years but the government chose to largely ignore it despite a federal mandate to fix the system. It appears that this is the government's answer to that federal mandate as suggested through the agency they created. I would suggest to the WMA that there are clearly other ways to dispose of trash, including toxic trash. The answer is not to spend millions to get rid of trash, the answer is to make use of it.
We are in an energy crisis in the Virgin Islands, and it's getting worst. We need to find ways to not only rid ourselves of trash but we need to also find ways to create energy. Trash IS energy. We must find the will to invest in the industry needed to solve both problems. We must be self-sufficient and think out of the box.
The answer to the question of trash and the production of energy are either trash to energy incinerators or plasma incineration. In both cases, the trash we send to the landfills are burned at high temperatures, steam is created to turn generators and thus power. We produce approximately 1.25M pounds of trash a day (125,000 people x 10 pounds per day each) and 5000 pounds of trash will produce 1megawatt of electric energy. The entire Virgin Islands uses approximately 900 megawatts . Based on the per-day waste figure, with a 75% efficiency (claimed by incineration industry) the trash we use could produce 187.5 megawatts per day or enough electricity to power 20 to 22% of all our energy needs per day. A staggering figure but the facts are there. This energy production method could not only solve our trash problems but could also reduce the cost to every power rate payer in the Virgin Islands. If we built such plants on each island, we would be providing power to the WAPA grids. Another important point is that the existing landfill trash will also be burned thus eliminating the existing toxicity of the landfills while solving the federal mandate to close them. Once the landfills are gone, we would be giving back huge plots of clean land to the government which could be used for a variety of purposes..
The incineration method most proliferated around the world is the plasma method of incineration. It does not allow toxic gasses to enter the atmosphere, is completely self-contained and are the largest growing trash reduction and energy producing industry in the world. Many former incineration-only plants are now re-tooling for the plasma technology method citing greater efficiency with less toxic outpourings. What's more, the residue from these plants produces saleable product such as hydrogen, nitrogen and a sludge that is recycled and its products are widely saleable. Effectively, there is nothing wasted. And there is no need to separate trash. Everything goes in including batteries, tires, plastics, automobiles, etc. The method reduces the material down to its atomic structure and thus there is not even any smoke! In Puerto Rico, a plasma plant is being built to take care of its growing needs and plans to import trash (from the Virgin Islands?) in order to make additional profits on the by-products.
There are several world-wide corporations that build and install these plants. They offer a variety of options to private industry and governments. The most attractive option is that they will bear the cost of the building of the plant but will own the plant and take all profits, including the sale of the energy. All that would be required is the land.(which we have-the landfills). Another option is to pay to have the plant built as a turn-key alternative where the agency (WMA) responsible runs the plant and gets the lion-share of the profits with a portion going to the builder. This, of course, would require the VI government to pay to build the plants-money we don't have. Other options include simply providing the engineering and providing the technology.
I think the WMA should use logic and common-sense when approaching the problems of trash. Many down-island countries are already solving their trash problems and are making profits from both the energy and the residues. I think the Virgin Islands should enter the 21st century and stop wasting money and start thinking of ways to create a better way of life for our citizens.
I am Not in favor of the WMA's proposed trash tax and strongly suggest that the WMA find alternative ways to deal with our trash problems.
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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email