Let’s Talk Trash

Let’s Talk Trash

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.

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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!

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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 🙂

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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.

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This is what the bins SHOULD look like at the end of a great day on the beach!

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!

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Beach Bar file photo circa 2016

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.
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New Bins were installed at the Pine Peace location this spring

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

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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.

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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.
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Stop by the Friends of the Park store at Mongoose Junction for reusable cups, water bottles and bags for your visit!

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 🙂

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17 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Trash”

  1. Thank you Hillary Bonner for this important information on “Lets Talk Trash”. Hopefully other people have read it & will make an impact to pick up, clean up & dispose of properly!! Please do your part to keep Paradise St John USVI looking beautiful.

  2. We noticed SO much more trash on the beach this year! Definitely a different clientele of people were visiting St. John. People were loud, aggressive and slobs! Everyone who loves St. John and comes there every year along with many of the shopkeepers were complaining about the people who were there. I hope things go back to normal for next summer!

  3. Thanks for the wonderful article. We are coming in January and always refill the gallon jugs with water. Can you tell us where Kilroy’s and St John Provisions are?

    • Yes. Please tell us. We always buy the gallons but wondered where we could get them refilled. Before the storms we went to St. John ice and water. Villa owners should make this info available to their guests. Many of us want to keep St. John beautiful and pure. Isn’t that what attracts us in the first place?

  4. “Additionally, their tax collection occurs in the morning…”
    The NPS should collect a trash tax from boaters 🙂

  5. Thank you for writing this important message about conserving the island! It’s sad to think some people don’t care about where they throw their trash and have no regard for this beautiful island. My husband and I go every year and make sure we do our part to make sure we recycle and reuse.

  6. When we visit, we try to only buy drinks in aluminum cans for recycling. All the glass and plastic bottles can only go in the trash. I wish the USVI would eliminate single serve glass altogether for trash and safety reasons caused by broken glass.

  7. Great article. We’ve been coming to STJ for 20 years and appreciate the new containers and more frequent pickups. Maybe Dolphin and Starfish can start stocking bottled water in aluminum cans instead of plastic. We buy Open Water and recycle the cans. Open water.com. We have no interest in the company other than the packaging.

  8. A hint I stumbled onto at home where only aluminum is recycled, and I have to haul my trash to a landfill — fill your empty containers destined for the trash with other trash, i.e., put napkins, etc. in your empty milk carton. Not only are you using less space in your trash bag, but if it’s stinky trash, the smell will be contained better while hauling it to a dumpster.

  9. Sounds like a park service problem to me. The problem would go away if they picked up the trash more than once a day. It is not the fault of visitors that the bins are overflowing. Seems like an easy fix. Pick up twice a day instead of one.

  10. Thank you for this.
    We’ve personally never had a problem with trash. We have stayed in rentals for many years – you just do what you have to do for our “paradise” of an island. “Newbies” ?? well they better get used to it or not bother coming back ‘cos if you treat the Island like shit it won’t be there for when you want to come back – go somewhere else.
    And – on the trash talk – let’s ask how many people are still bringing regular sun lotion onto the island? We went online and out of our way to buy the right product , but nothing was checked in our luggage.
    Can you do a quick review for visitors coming onto “our” island ?

  11. Good article. I saw these bins and also saw a homeless man dumpster diving and then leaving the open trash bags sitting there.
    There aloo seems to be a homeless/mentally ill problem on the island. I hiked Lindberg trail and near the park there was a man screaming about the Pope. There also should be a law about no sleeping on park benches overnight.
    I live near lake Michigan and always pick up blue and green plastic items on the beach.
    Also there should be a law against helium balloons. They float away and end up in the lake.
    I’ll come back to St. John soon.

  12. Thank you so much! For those of us that frequent STJ and love it like it’s our own home, we are very aware of the trash/littering issue and make it a point to dump our garbage in those designated bins. As you mentioned in your article, some people just don’t care, but I totally agree that if we all do just a little more than our part we can keep STJ the natural beauty that she is.

  13. excellent write up . Thank you for caring so much about our environment and islands Hillary. if you can make this sharable we can post on Facebook.
    you give such helpful information specially bin sites . most Tourists do not know of. Perhaps even some locals . Great phot of Erin with trash bag as she is so passionate and does keep our beaches clean as possible. yes Island Green Living welcomes volunteers even if it its couple of hours of work
    Thank you Hillary foir excellent community service.

  14. Great info and reminder that a small island need help to control the trash with people planning and participation. Hey we always have reusable shopping bags, not transfer that idea to other common sense actions. Keep writing such good articles. Love a clean St John.

  15. Excellent article. The attraction of St. John is its natural beauty. I find it so sad that people can’t see that. We all need to be good stewards. The host/owner of our first stay in 2016, (thank you Nancy), really emphasized the importance of keeping your footprint small when visiting and living there. Kevin and I have always tried to remember these things when staying there now. Especially since we stay a little longer each time we come now. I also believe that business owners, on land and on sea, need to relay these concepts to their customers. Talk about it. Signage at the park explaining the importance of taking trash in/trash out. We visit a state park in New York that has no trash cans. Strictly trash in/ trash out. People have to realize that it is all of our jobs to keep our treasures clean and pristine.

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