Garbage disposal is a major logistical challenge for islands where land is at a premium and shipping is expensive. Neither the U.S. nor the British Virgin Islands have mastered the challenge—at least not yet.
There is virtually no recycling in either territory, apparently because the cost of shipping recyclables off-island cannot be recouped through recycling revenue. An on-again, off-again can recycling program on St. Thomas  is a private initiative, as are battery and glass recycling programs in the British Virgin Islands. On St. John , Maho Bay Camps has gone farthest to embrace the concept of zero waste, using glass bottles in art and finding creative uses for other types of waste.
Instead of recycling, the U.S. Virgin Islands have landfills on St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. These cannot handle the growing amount of waste being produced. Landfill fires—sparked by spontaneous combustion from the heat generated by the garbage—pose health and environmental risks, although some strides have been made in recent years.
In the British Virgin Islands, authorities openly burn trash on the smaller islands of Jost Van Dyke , Anegada, and Virgin Gorda . The incinerator on Tortola  is terribly swamped with more garbage than it can handle, and huge piles of garbage are burned outside the incinerator, causing serious health concerns for workers and residents who live near the plant. A new, larger incinerator has been promised since 2004 and may be installed in 2009.
Reduction of waste has posed challenges for both territories, since so many goods arrive on container ships, wrapped in cardboard or plastic, on wooden pallets. Packaging is a big part of life. Sadly, there has been little to no political leadership on this issue, which could probably be solved, or at least addressed in a more successful way, with a clear vision and commitment. But then again, investing in garbage is a difficult political sell.