Big Island, Nation Observe Recycles Day on Thursday
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by Dave Smith
Thursday is America Recycles Day, when everyone is reminded to recycle and buy recycled products.
The Big Island’s participation in the effort was made official five years ago with the passing by the County Council of a resolution naming Nov. 15 as Hawaii Recycles Day.
The county Department of Environmental Management notes that last year Big Island residents achieved a record recycling rate of 38%, which translated to 190 million pounds of recycled materials.
Although that falls short of the county’s goal set in 2003 of diverting 50% of the waste stream from landfills by 2008, it is still ahead of the national average.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2010 Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash, and recycled or composted 85 million tons of that for a 34% recycling rate.
That works out to each individual generating 4.4 pounds of waste per day with 1.5 pounds being recycled or composted.
In addition to recycling bins at county transfer stations, efforts locally include the county-sponsored reuse centers which keep reusable items from being needlessly discarded. There are currently centers in Keaau, Keauhou, Waimea and Hawi, and another is scheduled to open next year in Kealakehe.
Education is another strong component of recycling, and the county is working with local schools to implement recycling programs.
Toward that, the Kealakehe High School Environmental Leadership Club has prepared a petition to submit to the state Department of Education to establish recycling at all schools. For a copy of the petition or other information contact Kealakehe teacher Jenny White at Jenny_White@notes.K12.hi.us.
Another way the county is working to achieve its ultimate goal of zero waste is by expanding the greenwaste diversion program to include organic materials including food, paper and compostable plastics.
The greenwaste is ground and given free to the public to be reused as mulch. Officials said other commodities such as paper, glass and metals are processed locally. However, due to a lack of manufacturers in Hawaii, most of the materials are shipped to a recycling facility for additional processing or sold directly to manufacturing plants for use in new products.
Officials are reminding the public that reusing recycled materials replaces the need to extract raw materials and reduces negative impacts on the environment.
Recycling comments and suggestions may be submitted to Linda Peters, the county’s recycling coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 961-8942.
The county is also reminding residents that a household hazardous waste collection event will be held in Hilo on Dec. 1 from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Materials to be accepted from the general public at the Hilo Recycling and Transfer Station include automotive fluids, chemicals and poisons. Electronic or e-waste will not be accepted.