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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, January 2, 2006

Despite red tape, we're quite green

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Columnist

When Honolulu's curbside recycling effort foundered last year, it seemed that Hawai'i had suffered a serious setback in recycling.

But to the degree that the goal is to divert material from the waste stream, and in particular from ending up in landfills, the statistics aren't bad and they are continuing to improve.

"I've seen so much progress. We have come from recycling about 100,000 tons a year 15 years ago to more than 500,000 tons," said Suzanne Jones, the city's recycling coordinator.

City spokesman Bill Brennan said the 50,000 blue recycling bins that were distributed to Honolulu residents for curbside recycling will be used in the coming months for green-waste pickup. The city expects the twice-monthly collection of residential yard waste to result in nearly 75 percent of O'ahu's available green waste being recycled into mulch and other uses.

The state's beverage container recycling program, launched in January 2005, continued to gain ground during the year and is expected to remain strong in 2006. The program reported an 87 percent redemption rate in September, the highest level yet. Numbers for the last quarter of 2005 are not available. State recycling coordinator Jennifer Tosaki said she doesn't expect that high rate to continue, but feels it could easily stay north of 70 percent.

The state is auditing both container sales and redemption numbers to ensure the results are valid, she said.

"If these are the true numbers, we're doing pretty well," Tosaki said. "We're climbing pretty quickly."

By one estimate, Honolulu generates 1.6 million tons of trash each year. The H-POWER waste-to-energy plant is processing roughly 600,000 tons of material, reducing that trash, in volume, by 90 percent. Recycling, composting and similar programs are diverting 500,000 to 600,000 tons more.

Through the combination of H-POWER and recycling, more than 70 percent of Honolulu's solid waste is being diverted from the landfill. Expanded green-waste composting could boost that to close to 75 percent.

To move beyond that number will require a combination of programs that make recycling more convenient and add economic incentives. Curbside recycling could be in that mix, as well as other new wastediversion technologies.

If you have a question or concern about the Hawaiian environment, drop a note to Jan TenBruggencate at P.O. Box 524, Lihu'e, HI 96766 or jant@honoluluadvertiser.com. Or call him at (808) 245-3074.