The Treasures in Trash

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Internationally, the emerging paradigm in progressive waste management strategies is to redefine waste as useful resources or materials that need to be managed accordingly.

Materials are managed in a closed loop system that mimics the natural world where there is no such thing as waste. Waste simply becomes food or resources for other systems. The BVI has numerous examples of this concept in action and these are paving the way for the Territory to be a centre of excellence for materials management.

Green VI’s Glass Studio

Green VI is an environmental not-for-profit (NPO) in the British Virgin Islands.

Green VI’s Glass Studio—the NPO’s most visible project—has been a small-scale demonstration of a closed loop system utilising ‘waste’ materials for raw material inputs. Having outgrown their home in the beautiful Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI after four years of operation, the Glass Studio will be relocating to a larger site at Leverick Bay on Virgin Gorda. The location also permits Green VI to test further environmental solutions such as demonstrating how problematic waste streams (organic waste and sewage) can be converted into energy through anaerobic digestion – a natural process where bacteria break down organic waste and release methane as a by-product. Saltwater sewage from boats and sargassum will be also tested for viability. Green VI’s Glass Studio aims to ultimately use multiple waste streams to run its facility:

  • glass waste = recycled glass art
  • textile waste = packaging
  • cardboard waste = packaging and fuel
  • used vegetable oil = fuel
  • sewage = fuel
  • organic waste = fuel
  • sargassum = fuel

Virgin Gorda Recycling Pilot

Traditional recycling is difficult in the BVI due to economies of scale and distance from recycling markets. For the majority of recyclables, the value of the materials received will not cover the basic costs of collection, processing, and shipping. This is a complex issue that will take time, resources, prioritisation, and strong partnerships to make lasting progress.

The key difference between the Virgin Gorda Recycling Project and traditional recycling, is local application. Through an innovative coalition effort, waste streams will be considered sources of marketable products for use on-island. To this end, Green VI has worked closely with Government, local recyclers, and the community for many years. Virgin Gorda has been identified as the initial island to implement a recycling pilot and the programme is set to launch later in 2016. This pilot will develop, implement, test, and support systems for recycling throughout the BVI.

The Department of Waste Management has procured recycling bins, as well as a dedicated collection truck. Glass, aluminium cans, all types of plastic, and used vegetable oil will be collected on Virgin Gorda. Currently, the Waste Management Department separate and barge glass from Jost van Dyke to Virgin Gorda for processing.

Local recycler, Green & Clean VI Ltd. has procured equipment to implode glass bottles to make aggregate that can be used for a range of applications such as roads, base material, drainage, landscape material, countertops, and floors. A plastics recycler—Plastics VI—will transform discarded plastic into outdoor furniture and polywood.

The ultimate vision for Virgin Gorda is the development of an eco-industrial park that aims to transform the current dump site into a hive of various activities that convert waste into useful, locally made products, providing a rich environment for growing more BVI businesses. Insert image of park by Daniella Nunes

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Green VI’s Fragile T’ings exhibit was a poignant commentary on the fragility of the environment and how we can work as nature does, by using waste as a resource to produce beautiful and useful products whilst still protecting our environment. As stewards of planet earth, we have a responsibility to handle nature carefully. As with glass, once broken, it is impossible to restore nature to its original state of exquisiteness.

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Green & Clean VI Ltd. is a private recycler on Virgin Gorda who transforms glass waste into aggregate that can be used for construction purposes such as fill material, aggregate for roads, drainage material, and decorative applications for countertops and floors.

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Nutmeg Designs is a great local business, demonstrating how old sails can become beautifully made bags – the perfect product for a sailing destination.

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Based on Virgin Gorda, Greencrete BVI makes unique products for homeowners and tourists from concrete, recycled glass, conch, and whelk shells.

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VI Plastic, based on Tortola, will be converting discarded plastic into outdoor furniture and polywood.

Valley Day Primary makes bags from old newspapers and uses old textile waste and cardboard to make iPad covers. These are sold at stores on Tortola.

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Green VI’s CHAIR-ity Auction and Trash to Treasure workshops have created ‘hands-on’ opportunities for the community to experience what we discard as inherently valuable.

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Metal recycler, ENS Excavating Ltd., based in Sea Cows Bay, Tortola is continuously improving his systems to increase the value of the derelict vehicles and scrap metal he processes.

Photography courtesy of the companies

Charlotte McDevitt

Charlotte McDevitt

Executive Director at Green VI
Charlotte is the executive director of Green VI, a non-profit organisation that works toward a greener, cleaner and healthier BVI, finding balance between development and conservation of the natural environment.
Charlotte McDevitt
Charlotte McDevitt

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