Advice to Manage County Recycling Rollback

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New recycling requirements recently announced have left many residents concerned about what to do next.

Effective Oct. 16, 2019, Hawai’i County Transfer Stations will no longer accept plastic or paper recycling in county “mixed” recycling bins. The 2-bin system will continue to accept glass bottles and jars in one bin and cardboard in the other. Cardboard includes brown paper shopping bags and corrugated cardboard only. A third bin for scrap metal will be available for small cans at select transfer stations.

These changes are happening in light of China’s ‘National Sword,’ a recycling directive that imports should have only a minor amount of contamination — food particles or incorrectly sorted plastics. These items had previously been shipped first and separated second, wreaking havoc on the environment in countries that accepted recyclables, a Recycle Hawai‘i press release stated.

Set up collection stations for your neighbors, and take responsibility for getting materials to the right place. PC: Recycle Hawai‘i

Already, the closure of the Hilo landfill was projected to use six large dump trucks a day to move garbage from the east side of the island to the Kona Sanitary Landfill, the release continued. Conscientious households will face lifestyle changes as the community struggles to manage the material remnants of daily life.

Recycle Hawai’i has been operating in waste management on the island for 27 years. In its current inception, Recycle Hawai’i’s directors are focused on providing families and households with the tools to reduce waste, the release continued.

Hawai’i residential recycling accounts for the majority of waste on the island, responsible for more than 35% of all wastes collected, Recycle Hawai‘i said. This means that how individuals choose to purchase, use and discard materials can, as an aggregate, make a huge difference in reducing solid waste and keeping the ‘āina clean.


These recommendations are for residential wastes, though interested parties can adapt any which may safely and economically save time and resources for their businesses.

Step 1 — Reduce

Make decisions about packaging. Let packaging guide habits. Apples are less wrapped than granola bars. Glass juice bottles are still recyclable, juice boxes and pouches are not. Think about how to sort materials before buying.

Track what’s tossed. Keep a clipboard by the cans and write down each item disposed of. Keeping a trash audit is an eye-opening first step to managing home waste.

Remove the unnecessary. Use the opportunity to break habits like reaching for the candy bar at checkout or adding a soda to the meal. Use these tricks to curb impulse buys:

  • Make a list
  • Eat before shopping
  • Walk away; come back next week if it’s still on your mind

Don’t buy it. Use forums like Freecycle or look for a local Facebook Buy Nothing group. These groups promote sharing wealth within our own neighborhoods.

Thrift it. Get to know local reuse centers (found at select transfer stations), and explore resale shops.

Spend time learning Craigslist and Marketplace. See what else you can find. Many websites will also ship used goods from the mainland.

Make fresh, whole foods. A lot of packaging waste happens in the kitchen. Cook using fresh, whole ingredients instead of bagged mixes.

Ask a neighbor for stuff. There is already an abundance of tools and materials on the island, ask to borrow or trade.


Take the lead. Be creative and come up with solutions. For party gifts, use hand-drawn photos to make a book or host a ‘fiver’ party — everybody brings $5 for one large gift. Share experiences.

BYO. Bring your own plates, forks, cloth, bags, containers and thermoses. Many of these can be found in thrift shops or in your home.

Store food in clear containers. Reduce food waste by seeing what there is to eat before it becomes a science experiment.

Step 2 — Reuse

Out with the paper, in with more cloth. Cloth napkins, cleaning rags from old shirts, thrift shopping bags. Wash and reuse. Slowly wean the household off of paper towels and napkins.

Step 3 — Recycle

Yes, there is still recycling. Sort materials at home to keep recycling streams clean and uncontaminated.

Always rinse and remove caps.

Never place your recycling in a bag.

Set up for success. Have four or five bins or boxes to sort materials before taking them to the transfer station.

Make a shortlist of local retailers who recycle using our recycling directory. Make an effort to take clean materials to companies that will recycle them directly.

Compost. It’s recycling at home for paper, yard and food wastes, and one of the most effective steps a household can take to reduce their carbon footprint. Learn more about home composting at and look out for composting workshops in your area. Compost Hawai’i offers compost collection in and around Hilo.

Vote. Show up in planning and council meetings. Learn about the issues.

Big Island Now stock photo.

Ask for help. Work with your people to create, share, and repair resources. Deal with environmental grief together and remember. Join Kokua Resource Network and Zero Waste Big Island, local chat groups on Facebook.

Ask businesses about waste. Write a letter, or ask about alternatives to styrofoam and plastics. Ask if compostables are actually composted.

Learn more about Recycle Hawai’i’s programs and check the recycling directory at

Join Recycle Hawai’i’s email list. Volunteer to be a resource role model. Donate to support Recycle Hawai’i programs. Visit Hawai’i County Solid Waste online here.

Zero Waste Big Island meets monthly on First Fridays at Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in downtown Hilo, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.. Recycle Hawai’i Backyard Compost Workshop is Oct. 15 at Hilo Public Library, from 5 to 6 p.m.

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