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V.I. Waste Management Authority Considering Special Waste Fees

Like most government agencies in the territory the last few years, the V.I. Waste Management Authority is learning to do more with less.

With three straight years of declining government appropriations, and with that diminished appropriation expected to continue into the foreseeable future, the VIWMA is now considering the implementation of special waste fees on certain items in the general waste stream.

Simply put, the practice of households throwing away certain things for free could be coming to an end.

VIWMA consultant Daphne Harley said the necessity to potentially add these special waste fees is because the authority is supposed to be financially self-sustaining.

“We have not been successful in doing that up to this point,” Harley said. “The reality is we must implement various strategies to generate revenues because our dependence on the General Fund is shrinking.”

The VIWMA met with certain retailers last week to discuss the topic, and this week the authority is conducting sessions open to the general public on each island to address the issue.

On St. Croix Tuesday night at the Education Department’s Curriculum Center, the solid waste directors of both islands, in addition to Harley, discussed the items that VIWMA is thinking of adding these special waste fees to, such as fluorescent light bulbs and electronic devices.

Other items that may require special fees to dispose of include white goods – machines like refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines – used motor and lubricating oils, vehicles and tires.

“These are considered special waste because they have special requirements for handling, they have a negative impact on the environment and they’re very costly to dispose of,” said Vince Ebbesen, St. Croix’s solid waste director.

“Some of the vendors know that when you try to get these items off-island, shipping is a major issue with a major cost.”

According to Mario Leonard, St. Thomas’ solid waste director, “All of the items we’ve selected cannot be land-filled. In fact, they have to be exported from the territory.”

While the exact fees for disposing of special waste haven’t been determined yet, the idea for how to collect these potential special waste fees is being discussed. And any fees imposed would have to be approved by the Public Services Commission first.

One option is to collect the fee from the retailer at the point of import and then pass it along to the consumer via a price increase on that specific good. Another option is to collect the fee at the point of sale where customers could see it as a line item on their receipt of purchase.

For vehicles, people would pay a disposal fee as a line item on their annual vehicle registration.

While the formula for computing the amount of the vehicle fee has not been determined yet, officials estimated it might be around 15 percent of the annual vehicle registration cost. Officials also said disposing of a vehicle, which requires removing batteries, fluids and other maintenance issues, could cost around $700, and instead of charging a lump sum fee when the car was initially registered, they were leaning toward a more gradual payment schedule that’s prorated accordingly during the life of the vehicle.

While most of the public discussion centered on the vehicle disposal fee and on tires, which Harley said “are a huge problem for the territory,” one man in attendance on a fixed income said he realized what was happening, and despite officials calling these special waste fees, he said he would refer to them instead as special waste taxes.

“I realize that everything is being taxed,” said Eurman Fahie. “It’s totally crazy.”

A public question and answer session on St. Thomas for the VIWMA’s proposed special waste fees is scheduled for Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the University of the Virgin Island’s Admin Conference Center and on St. John for Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Julius Sprauve School cafeteria.

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