Recycling Made Easy on St. John

Recycling Made Easy on St. John

Good Morning, Good Morning!  If you have been following along, you have probably realized that I am a strong and passionate supporter of the recycling and waste reduction programs here on St. John.  When I moved here from Colorado in 2012, I was absolutely appalled at the wide range use of straws, disposable plastic cups and Styrofoam and even more put off by the lack of any type of recycling program on island!  Well, here we are, a decade later, with a non-Reef Safe sunscreen ban, an incredible reduction in non-compostable plastic use on island AND an incredible recycling program right here on St. John!  How far we have come…But, just like anything else in the world, if you don’t have the proper information on HOW to utilize the programs that are in place (or simply don’t know that they are in place!) they probably won’t be utilized.  So, here’s the 411 on how to recycle while you are on St. John!

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Keep St. John, and our surrounding seas, free of plastic by recycling while you are visiting!

When we are on Asante with guests, I have a recycling bin ready to go!  Every aluminum can and piece of plastic that gets used on the boat is rinsed thoroughly and placed in the bin.  And it is super easy to dispose of the recyclables after a trip because we just take it with our trash to the Pine Peace dumpster where there is a recycling bin next to the general waste bins.  It’s literally so easy.  But, most of our guests look at me like I have three heads when I say I’m going to recycle their Summer Ale can after the last refreshing swig.

“Wait, there’s recycling on St. John?”

YES.  There is.

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Ocean Bound Plastics Recycling Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Island Green Sustainable Living Center- February 2021

And, unfortunately, many of our guests who are not aware of recycling on St. John were flat out told by their lodging host or property manager that we don’t have recycling on island.  Well, I’m here to tell you that just isn’t true.  (Do better folks!)

On the flip side of that, I received a note from the manager of a lodging facility earlier this week who IS working with Island Green Living Association to promote recycling and make it easy on their guests to do so (Bravo!).  She was having a hard time communicating to her guests about the proper way to recycle while visiting.  Regardless of the info and how-to sheets in the villa, her staff often finds many non-recyclable items in the recycling bins which results in extra hours and costs to the company for trash sorting.  No one wants to do that 🙂

But our recycling program on island is very different from what most of you experience in the states.  So, this is how we do it!

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Island Green President, Harith Wickrema, left, and (former) staff member CJ Scatliffe, right, show off the new bins, donated by PADNOS with pick up powered by fundraising dollars!

On Gifft Hill, situated between Tony’s Kitchen and the dump (behind the VITEMA building) is an amazing little compound fueled by the Island Green Living Association.  Here, you will find the ReSource Depot and a very grass roots recycling operation that packs a punch against the plastic and aluminum waste on this island.

Island Green Living Association accepts the following items for recycling:

  • Aluminum Cans (beer, soda, seltzer)

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  • #1 Plastics– Beverage bottles, Food bottles/jars (salad dressing, peanut butter, honey, etc.)>  You’ll also find that a lot of the restaurants and bars on island have switched over to this type of recyclable plastic cups from the nasty #7 translucent cups that used be widespread here on St. John.
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Enjoyed at the Windmill Bar and now rinsed and ready to go in the recycling bin!
  • #2 Plastics- Milk cartons, detergent bottles, hygiene products, household cleaners
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Shampoo, conditioners and other cosmetic/hygiene products are likely #2

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  • #5 Plastics- Straws, bottle caps, prescription bottles, hot food containers, packaging tape, DVD/CD boxes, yogurt containers, disposable plates and cutlery, etc.
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Always check the resin number on the bottom of your container or cup in order to see if it qualifies for recycling on STJ

Now, these are just a few examples of each type of plastic that the on-island recycling program accepts.  Please see below for more of a breakdown.

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A printable version of this infographic can be obtained from the Island Green Living Association

Additionally, ALL plastic and aluminum waste should be rinsed of their contents before being recycled.  These folks, many of whom are volunteers, are out in the heat in an open-air recycling facility sorting through the contents of our recyclables.  And, the contents of these containers can attract bees and other insects, putting them in harm’s way.  Additionally, I never want to think about anyone sorting through stale beer cans or rotten yogurt containers on my account 😉 Oh, and please remove the tops from your plastic bottles.  They can be included with the recycling but should be removed to ease the plastic crushing process.

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Students sorting recyclables last spring on the Gifft Hill gives back day

BUT we do not need to sort the contents of your recycling bin…They do that for us!  Clean and commingled aluminum and plastics can be dropped off in one bag at any of the below locations if your lodging facility does not offer this service for you.

  • Pine Peace Dumpster:  Just across the street from EC Service Station
  • Gifft Hill Dumpster:  Just past the upper campus of Gifft Hill School if you are coming from Centerline Road
  • Coral Bay Dumpster:  Across from Love City Mini-Mart
  • Island Green ReSource Depot:  Just off Centerline on Gifft Hill Road behind the VITEMA building.

Pine Peace, Gifft Hill and Coral Bay are convenient locations to drop both your trash AND recycling.  I love a good one-stop shop 😉

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Look for these bins to dispose of your recyclables!

Also, I noticed last week that Cinnamon Bay has the recycling bins back in place just off the beach, across from the water sports rentals and food truck.  While these bins shouldn’t be utilized for bulk drop off, it sure does make the whole pack it in, pack it out concept a lot easier when enjoying the beach at Cinnamon Bay (they can also be found at Trunk Bay)!

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In addition to Cinnamon Bay Beach and Campground, the following businesses are working with Island Green in order to recycle their cans and plastic waste.  So, make sure to ask where you should place your Love City Seltzer (or other) cans when you are finished enjoying them!

  • Maho Crossroads
  • Lovango Resort + Beach Club
  • Westin Resort
  • The Windmill Bar
  • Tap & Still
  • Cruz Bay Landing
  • Grande Bay Resort
  • Trunk Bay Concessions
  • The Hills
  • Shambles
  • Salty Mongoose
  • Skinny Legs
  • Gallows Point

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On St. John, we unfortunately do not (YET) have the capabilities of recycling the following:

  • Glass
  • #3, #4, #6 or #7 plastics
  • Any type of plastic container that does NOT have a resin code on it
  • Cardboard
  • Styrofoam
  • Compostable items
  • Plastic Bags

So, please make it easy on the folks doing the sorting and place these items in your trash bin instead of the recycling bin.

In her message, the hospitality manager mentioned above also asked me to talk a bit about the pack it in, pack it out concept for visitors.  It’s not just for beaches anymore!

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Snorkel gear at the ReSource Depot

If you are traveling with a cooler, floats, chairs, snorkel gear, extra luggage, etc. and do not have room to bring it home with you, take a few moments on your last day on island to swing by the ReSource Depot!  You can drop off gently used items such as the ones listed above for them to re-sell and 100% of those profits go right back into keeping St. John beautiful and trash-free.  And I always LOVE a good stop at this feel good, non-profit thrift store.  The staff is AWESOME and you never know what incredible item you might find to commemorate your trip with.  Maybe you’ll find yourself a vintage St. John t-shirt or souvenir to take home with you (on the cheap!).

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Drop off your gently used items or shop for new treasures at the ReSource Depot!

I hope this was all helpful for all of you visitors, residents and hospitality staff out there.  It is so incredibly awesome that we have a PLASTIC recycling program on island…Let’s use it!

20 thoughts on “Recycling Made Easy on St. John”

  1. I am ecstatic that a efficient recycling program is finally in place on such a beautiful island! Thank you for the details.

  2. great article educating and supporting green Initiatives . do appreciate all news of st.john had done for us.
    in gratitude.
    Harith Wickrema
    Board member Island green Living

  3. I applaud your efforts; excellent work!
    I am curious as to your outlet and logistics for disposing of the recyclables; transportation costs usually make recycling too expensive.
    Thanks! (from a frequent tourist)

  4. Tried to recycle at our rented condo last week but doubt our separated items got to you. Perhaps you could work with VRBO or AirBNB owners to spread the word and make bins and instructions easily used? This article, perhaps abbreviated, might be included with routine email instructions that the condo managers send out about check in? I’ve been recycling since I was 27 (45 years!) and find the best instructions contain more graphics than words….people are in too much of a hurry. Yours look good! Congrats to you and thanks so much for your work.

    • I was thinking the same thing. Great idea to send the info with the VRBO/AirBNB confirmation and welcome emails as well as having a laminated pictograph next to the trash cans at villas.

  5. Wonderful article! We discovered the Coral Bay Recycle Bins back in November (after asking our rental company if there was recycling and being told no) and we were thrilled to see them and use. But, your do’s and don’ts are very helpful. Every little bit helps!

  6. St John should be busting with pride over its recycling program and its beautifully-organized Resource Depot, where the staff and volunteers go to great lengths to help us find whatever we need. And it’s a great feeling to know that there’s a bright future for something we love but no longer use.

  7. Way to go STJohn! As soon as we step off the ferry we should get into recycling mood I order to Preserve this precious island from garbage drowning. Go Island gree Living an Resource Depot center and all the folks of St John doing their best.

  8. Thank goodness! All the years I vacationed there, it would KILL me to throw away things that I would recycle at home..good job!

  9. Superb article. This word needs to get the thousands of visitors who often are here only for a week but would be happy to help if they only knew how.

  10. Could you tell us what happens to the items once they are sorted and crushed? Are they shipped off island or what is the process from there? Thanks!

  11. I appreciate all you are doing. Thank you. I have one question. Where does the plastic recycling end up? I followed our own recycling stream stateside and it ends up in a landfill….or on its way to a third world country that will accept it.

  12. Last year (2023) We heard there was a machine to crush glass for recycling but it was not being used. Do you know anything about that? We are on island until March 19, and visit every year about this time.

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