Good Morning! If you have been following along over the past few months, you likely already know that the island has been abnormally busy! Dining reservations, rental cars and accommodations have all had a tough time keeping up with the demand created by this year’s boom in tourism. Yet there is another nasty and overwhelming element created by increased traffic to the islands that I probably don’t talk about enough on here. It’s not as much of an inconvenience to you as the rental car company losing your reservation but it is something we all need to pay attention to and work together on in order to take care of the beauty of St. John and its critters on land and sea. Trash. We are talking trash.
Last week, the VI National Park Service posted the following to their Facebook page, calling my attention to the never ending conundrum of increased waste on island as a result of high volume visitor traffic.
As you can see, this is not necessarily people littering…Instead, finding the bin was full, they placed their trash on top of or around it. As a result some curious mongoose or donkeys dug into it, scattering it around and a lot of it likely wound up on the beach across the street at Maho. I also want to point out, for all the naysayers out there, that the concessions at the other end of the beach do not serve Styrofoam containers or plastic water bottles as seen predominately in this photo. The large black trash bags would lead me to believe that this, folks, is predominately people bringing their own items to the beach. Or possibly boaters dumping their charter trash in the NPS bins after hours.
The purpose of this post is not to scold however or to point fingers. A lot of people are newbies and probably don’t understand the consequences of leaving trash behind with our lack of resources for clean up and close proximity to the nearby natural resources. And, unfortunately, some people simply don’t care. This post is simply to point out the problem and inform you of those of you who do want to do your part can minimize your impact and help out a bit the next time you are visiting St. John!
For starters, the folks who left the bagged trash next to the bin were off to the right start. They just needed to go a couple of steps further! DO utilize a pack-in, pack-out strategy when going to the beach for a long day of snacks and drinks! But pack it ALL the way out.
I want to, for a moment, put out a PSA to the boaters in the bays….We ALL know that the marine services in the National Park waters could be better. However, these National Park bins are not for dumping multiple trash bags at a time. The NPS requests that if you must dump trash at these bins, please do it in small bags. Additionally, their tax collection occurs in the morning, so please do not leave large bags of trash outside of the bins late in the evening for our resident furry friends to dig into 🙂
Back to all you beach goers out there….If you’re loading up a cooler in the morning for a beautiful day at your favorite St. John beach, throw a couple of trash bags into your beach bag to bring along with you. If canned beer, soda or seltzers are your beverage of choice, bring an extra bag for aluminum recycling (I’ll get to that in a minute!).
At the end of your day, go ahead and double bag that trash and load it back into your vehicle…DO NOT pile it up by one of the NPS bins at the beach! These trash cans are small and their collection infrequent. If you have a few small items to toss, by all means go for it! But if ten people each put a full bag of trash in these bins, they are full. Leaving the other hundreds of beach goers each day to leave theirs outside of the container. If you see other people doing it, don’t be afraid to strike up a polite conversation and explain the brevity of this impact. They might simply not realize that their trash will sit at the bin site until the next morning, leaving it exposed to the elements for the night.
I know, this may seem a bit gross to some people out there. But, please understand that on St. John we do not have roadside trash collection. Any time, as a resident, I need to empty the trash I throw it in the back of the car and drive to the nearest roadside bin. We do it EVERY single day with household trash that has sometimes become stinky – EW. Some to go food and beverage containers in a trash bag in your car for ten minutes or so won’t be that bad. I promise 🙂
If you have been on St. John before, you know about the roadside bins that are conveniently located all over the island. No matter which direction you are headed, you can get to a bin to dump your trash before the first stop…Whether its happy hour in town or at your villa, you can arrive trash free and ready to play, knowing that you have wrapped up your beach day responsibly!
Ok- so you’re headed back into town on North Shore Road and would like to hit happy hour before you head home for the evening…I know that’s generally my plan 🙂 There are three convenient locations very close to Cruz Bay where you can dump your trash bags and be seated at a bar within moments time!
- “The Love Dumpster”- Head up Centerline road, past Dolphin to the first sharp turn and it is on the left hand side. There is an additional waste bin about a quarter mile up on the right as well if you miss the first one.
- “The School Dumpster” – Go ahead and get your car parked and send one of your comrades with the trash on foot before meeting them at the watering hole of your choice. From the ferry dock, walk towards Woody’s and take a right between the school and Tap & Still. The dumpster is a few hundred feet up on the left.
- “The Pine Peace Bins” – Brand new, lime green, forty foot bins are located on the right, just across the street from EC Service station, and before Pine Peace Mini Mart. You cannot miss these ones! And, there is plenty of space to turn around and zip back to town.
So, say you want to head straight home after the beach…If you’re going through town, these three sites will have you covered for a quick trash stop whether you are headed up Centerline Road, towards the Westin or towards Frank Bay. But, say you’re headed the back way from North Shore Road towards Coral Bay or Gifft Hill? Or maybe you are leaving one of the East End beaches or Salt Pond? Here are a few more options for you:
- The Straightaway between Adrian and Gift Hill- Located next to the bus stop and on your left if you are coming from Coral Bay/North Shore cut through.
- Upper Carolina/Bordeaux- Located on Centerline road between the Reef Bay Trailhead and Colombo’s Smoothie Stand
- Love City Mini Mart- Literally right across the street from the centrally located, Coral Bay Mini Mart
The trash battle unfortunately doesn’t stop with boat and beach trash. ALL of our trash goes into ONE landfill on St. Thomas. As you can imagine, it’s overflowing. Conservation and sustainability is a relatively newish conversation in the USVI and, as hard as we are working to do it, catching up with the waster overflow is tough! Here are some pointers from VI Waste Management in regards to your household trash and how to properly and most efficiently dispose of it at the public bin sites.
Additionally, here are a couple of things that I try to do on the daily to minimize my own impact:
- Reusable Bags for groceries- Bring your own from home or purchase a souvenir bag!
- An insulated cup for happy hour- Icy cold drinks that stay that way AND not using disposable plastic? Win win!
- Recycling aluminum- YES, we have aluminum can recycling on island! The Resource Depot (an island thrift store) and the can crushing facility are located on Gifft Hill Road and are fueled by the non-profit energy and funding of the Island Green Living Association. Take a look at their site to see how you can help out while you’re visiting!
- NEVER BUY BOTTLED WATER! Single serve plastic water bottles, in my opinion, are one of the WORST environmental impacts down here that doesn’t need to weigh so much! Buy gallons of water instead and fill a reusable water bottle (more souvenir shopping!). You can buy a gallon of water for around three bucks…And, live like a local. Refill those gallon jugs for 75 cents each at the automated fill station in front of Kilroy’s and St. John Provisions. It will save you a TON of money AND environmental impact.
Oh, and one more thing! If you’re super interested in helping to contribute to a sustainable and healthy St. John, check out Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, Get Trashed St. John and Island Green Living Association for possible volunteer opportunities while you are visiting. A few hours of a few peoples’ time goes a long way to help support sustainability efforts on St. John!
I hope that you find some of these tips and tools useful in an attempt to minimize your footprint the next time you are on St. John. I know….Some people just don’t care. But photos like the one at the beginning of this post literally hurt my heart. It’s so easy to prevent if we all just work together! Do what you can in your own little world each day. That is how we, as a group, can make the biggest overall impact 🙂