Half of Hawai'i garbage is recyclable

Leading / Ever wonder why the Three Musketeers wore those stylish capes and high boots? Try being doused in refuse dumped from windows of households then having to wallow in squishy piles of that same refuse piled up along the streets. Thank goodness government-regulated trash pick-up and disposal is the norm in most countries nowadays.

Now think about wallowing in bottles, cans, old refrigerators and improperly disposed toxic chemicals due to lack of municipal means and regulations. Think about acres of wasteland due to deforestation. Recyclables cluttering up landfills and polluting oceans with the ever-increasing population producing waste at an exponentially faster rate, pose a danger to the environment and to our health.

In Hawai’i, despite the traditional value of caring for the ‘aina, recycling programs have faded in and out since 1974, illustrating our lack of collective effort. According to a 2006 Waste Characterization Study of the City and County of Honolulu, over half the content in the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill was composed of paper, glass, wood, metals, green waste and organics. The same year, according to the Honolulu Department of Environmental Services website, 542,747 tons of matter were recycled in 2006–an amount lower than in the previous two years.

What’s wrong here? Maybe it’s a lack of opportunity. “I would be more inclined to recycle if it was more convenient,” says Hawai’i Kai resident Jodi Matsuoka, echoing a sentiment that man O’ahu residents share. She and her family save their recyclable bottles and bring them to a near-by center on a regular basis, Matsuoka says. However, because her area does not have curbside recycling, she adds, they not recycle anything else. Other U.S. cities, after all, have consistent curbside pick-ups with high participation rates. San Francisco conveniently has curbside recycling and compost pick-ups on the same day. Public trash receptacles have a section designated for recyclable bottles and cans. Seattle’s curbside recycling pick-up has increased every year. Hope does quicken with Honolulu’s recently announced plan to implement island-wide recycling by 2010.

Meanwhile, Honolulu’s numerous drop-off convenience centers and community recycling bins will presumably continue to attempt to provide convenience to citizens. The HI-5 bottle redemption program attempts to provide incentive to recycle. The city plans to increase the number of drop-off points in the future, such as receptacles in public parks (see sidebar).

Illustrating how a convenient community-wide recycling program can increase participation, some apartment complexes have implemented their own recycling systems, with with designated drop-off points. There are currently eight apartment and condominium complexes in Honolulu that have such programs.

“I think every apartment building with more than 30 people should have recycling,” says Angie Lee, who worked at the Marco Polo condominium complex on Kapi’olani and Isenberg a few years ago. When there were recycling bins on every floor, more people recycled, according to Lee. When neighborhood recycling becomes as convenient as walking down the stairs or merely to the end of the driveway or hall, the inclination to participate grows.

While bottles, cans and papers are easily recyclable at multiple centers, what about other recyclables? Old tires, care batteries, appliances, used motor oil and electronics have another life, too–or should. However, not every center accepts these recyclables all the time. For more information on recycling these items in Honolulu, as well as other recycling tips, visit the following websites: [earth911.org], [envhonolulu.org], [epa.gov]