Talkin Trash: How Much is Being Discarded in the Landfill and What Can I do About it?
In gearing up for the upcoming Waste Challenge, a group of Kanu volunteers had the opportunity to get up close and personal with Oahu’s waste management system during the ‘7th Annual Discover Recycling Event for Educators’ sponsored by our City and County.
I had visited HPOWER (Honolulu Project of Waste and Energy Recovery) once before but this was my first time meeting the ever controversial 200 acre and 960 ft deep canyon of a landfill in west Oahu known as Waimanalo Gulch. Although HPOWER receives 600,000 tons of trash a year, which means about 60% of Oahu’s trash is diverted from our landfill and burned to produce energy, the Waimanalo Gulch still receives about 500 tons of garbage each day and that’s when HPOWER is fully functional. Your average garbage truck can carry about 8-10 tons of trash just to give you some perspective. The unfortunate part is HPOWER can help to divert trash form the landfill only when it’s fully functional and it seems that HPOWER is often down for scheduled maintenance or other complications. HPOWER was not fully functional both times I visited and another volunteer said that 2 out of the 3 times she’s visited, HPOWER was not receiving full capacity. The good news is that the 3rd HPOWER Boiler is almost ready so this will help tremendously. In the meantime, the landfill will often see 1,500 tons of garbage a day and this doesn’t include any recyclables or green waste. That is a lot of waste Oahu and I don’t even know how to calculate the gas needed for the 150 + garbage trucks transporting our trash each day.
Summary of Take Aways- We need to reduce, reuse and recycle a whole lot more.
-Plastic Bags are a bigger problem then I thought.
They can’t really be recycled, they’re so light they tend to fly off garbage trucks and pollute our streams, ocean and communities. PLUS, there are alarming articles on the billions of plastic bags we use each year and the amount of crude oil required to produce disposable plastic bags. (Google it:)) Plastic bags cause an assortment of other problems mentioned below.
-It’s crucial to sort out your rubbish correctly
Although recyclables get sorted at the Recycling Center in Campbell Industrial Park, the conveyor belt of trash that the sorters stand over goes pretty fast. If a non-recyclable item is spotted there’s only enough time to sweep the entire section of trash off the conveyor belt as carefully as possible. This means a lot of recyclable items get dumped in the trash pile. They’re doing what they can. For a quick guide on sorting trash visit Opala.org
-Free your green waste and recyclables from plastic bags
Much like the sorting process at the RRR Recycling Center, it’s even more challenging to open up and remove plastics bags full of green waste at the Hawaiian Earth Products Composting Center. This means the mulch and soil compost produced from our green waste is contaminated with these plastic bags and other trash we threw in the green bin.
-I may start drying out my trash
Green waste or any trash full of moisture, takes up more space in our garbage trucks, landfill etc…takes more energy for HPOWER to burn and since it’s heavier it requires more fuel to cart around?
-Questions I’ll be better about asking myself before I throw things out
Can I wash this and reuse it?
Can I fix or repair this?
Can I reuse it for something else? (I started a photo album of creative re-use)
Can this be donated to someone in need?
Can this be recycled?
-Questions I’ll be asking myself when I think I need to buy something
Do I really need it?
What do I already have that I can use instead?
Can I borrow it from someone or someplace?
Maybe I’ll look on Craig’s list, eBay or at Goodwill for a gently used items
How much space in the landfill will this thing or the packaging of this item take up when I do dispose of it?
Can I buy this is bulk?
Participating in the ‘Discover Recycling Event’ has also inspired me to figure out a few things I can do to help Green my Office in diverting waste to the landfill. Each week of KanuHawaii’s waste challenge I’ll journal about simple ideas I’ve come up with and their measurable impact on waste reduction in hopes of inspiring other offices to do the same. Stay tuned for more trash talkin!