Saturday, February 25, 2012

Trouble In Paradise

Disclaimer: The following information is anecdotal; I was unable to locate adequate numbers of third-party references to substantiate some of the following claims.

Photo: Barges from Hawaii moored at the Port of Longview WA containing shrink-wrapped garbage in metal containers to be disposed of in Oregon land fills.

During our ten-day stay at our resort on the Big Island, the maid service came in twice to tidy our room and change the linens. Our kitchen was fully equipped and included a large blue recycling container. As recycling is embraced in Oregon with almost religious fervor, we dutifully placed our newspapers, cans, bottles and cardboard packaging in the recycling container. So we were quite surprised (and disappointed) on two occasions to later find large clear plastic bags outside the front door of our condo with our recycling mixed in with our general trash.

During our stay we had dinner one night with our friends Lorraine and Neil who were born and raised on the Big Island. Over dinner we related our experience with the recycling-trash at our resort. Our friends explained that, although Hawaii has a recycling “program”, there is no residential curb-side pick up of recycling; instead everyone must physically bring their recycling to a center. In fact we had noticed when we arrived at their home that they had two large barrels filled with aluminum cans in their car port.

Our friends told us that Hawaii had enacted a 5-cent deposit on liquid containers. However many of these still end up in the trash as so many of the tourists to the state come from states where bottle deposits are an unfamiliar concept.

The imperative for Hawaii to begin recycling came to a head roughly four years ago when the landfill on Oahu became full. A proposal was then made to ship Hawaii’s garbage to Oregon for disposal. However Oregonians balked at accepting garbage because: “Hawaiians recycle less than 25 percent of their sold waste. Oregonians, by comparison, recycle more than 50 percent of their waste.” [1]

Apparently the State of Hawaii contracted with a company to manage recycling on all the Hawaiian Islands. However a subsequent drop in the market for recycled plastic and increased fuel and other overhead costs have since rendered the program no longer cost effective. As a result, a three year accumulation of recycling material is allegedly being stored unprocessed in warehouses.

Beginning January 1st of this year, plastic (checkout counter) bags will be banned on the Big Island. [2] These have become a litter problem and the bags blown into the ocean threaten marine wildlife.

Up to now, Hawaii has generally been able to ignore its material waste disposal. But in a state where the cost of living is extremely high, making recycling programs cost-effective will remain a significant challenge in Paradise.

1. Don’t encourage Hawaii to send its trash, Portland Tribune, Oct. 30, 2009

2. Plastic Bags Banned On Hawaii’s Big Island, Beth Buczynski, Jan. 30, 2012,


DJan said...

Interesting. The hotel must be catering to the wishes of at least some of its patrons, but then not following through. I am surprised that they even went as far as they did to give an illusion of recycling.

Antares Cryptos said...

I was reading an article that some cities quietly choose not to recycle because they don't make enough profit on plastic.

Kay Dennison said...

Interesting!!! Amazingly enough, our curbside recycling program was spearheaded by our lone Republican councilman and it's been a great success!!! My little blue tub is at the curb every week. My little city isn't very progressive but on this we surprised (shocked?) city officials greatly with our support.

Robert the Skeptic said...

DJan Yes, it may be a "look-see" attempt because some customers expect it. But how many customers get to see the garbage bags when they get tossed?

Cryptos I would not be surprised. I have a buddy of mine who is going through a recycling series of classes locally. It is pretty work-intensive separating and handling the material. And in the end, if there is neither a market nor profit to be made, it just won't happen.

Kay I would check out if your local "R" is either a major shareholder of Allied Waste or receives campaign contributions from them. Republicans don't usually do anything that doesn't come back directly to them in some benefit, they are not big on doing things for "the greater good". I am suspicious and you should be too.

Kay Dennison said...

He's a teacher -- no hidden agenda. I've known him for decades.

Jerry said...

Texas. There are recycling dumpsters scattered here and there, and that is it. Some of the buildings in downtown Houston, and the building I work in is one, administer a strict recycling program...and I assume that the recycled material is taken care of properly.

But as a state, a deaf ear is turned toward recycling. I don't know -- but it seems to me that there must be a way that someone could make some money by instituting such a program.

History Doc said...

Making recycling cost effective anywhere remains an elusive prize. The fact is that it is still far less expensive, in both materials and labor, to produce new and landfill the rest, no matter how much we wish it were otherwise.

History Doc said...

By the way, am I the only one who hates the new Blogger captcha? I have to do it two or three times almost every comment.

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Ugh. We have no curbside pickup here, either, have to drive our stuff to the bins. And NO ONE else in town bothers to do so. Grrr. Frustrating.

Nance said...

We only recently began curbside pick-up at this tourist destination, and the recyclables container we were provided is so small, it's practically useless. We build the sides of it up with cardboard, tripling its capacity.

Should we consider recycling an example of "leaving it up to the states"?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Kay Teacher, huh... Charter School? Excuse me if I am suspicious. :)

Jerry My hypothesis is that if you live in an area where "individualism" is the dominant mindset, recycling is not going to be considered a value because there is nothing in it for the individual! Doing something for the "greater good"... hell, that's Socialism.

Doc I completely agree, it has to be cost-effective or its a non starter. And eventually it will when the rise in petroleum prices make plastic more expensive to produce.

Dawn Again cost containment is the pivotal factor, when garbage bills have to rise because it becomes more expensive to haul huge amounts of trash long distances, it will change.

Nance Well leaving it to the State of Hawaii hit a brick wall when Oregon refused to accept it's non-recycled trash. Right now we are leaving it up to the corporations.

Kay Dennison said...

Nope!!! He's full-fledged Masters plus 18 and teaches in the city school system which really bad by today's standards (and I'll spare you my rant on that. I don't ever align myself with charter school stuff -- it's a scam.

billy pilgrim said...

i collected 45 cents in empty cans riding the bike this morning!

most stores here now charge a nickel for a plastic bag encouraging us to bring our own bags. some stores give a 5 cent credit for bringing your own bag. lucky us.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Billy I had heard that in Ireland, after the stores began charging for plastic grocery bags, the grocery stores ended up needing to stock more plastic GARBAGE bags. Apparently they people were reusing plastic grocery bags as I do; as waste paper basket liners.

We have a 5-cent deposit on cans and bottles in Oregon. It is a way of employing out homeless guys to keep our streets picked up and the cash flow running at the liquor store.

Sightings said...

Good post. We have a fairly extensive recycling program here in the suburbs of New York, but sometimes I wonder what happens after the stuff leaves the curb -- I've seen the garbageman throwing the cardboard and papers in with the regular trash on more than one occasion.

On a related topic -- the bottle deposit has been 5 cents for 30 years. It needs to be raised to at least a dime, and maybe a quarter, if it's going to really prove effective.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Sightings I have a friend who is going through an extensive recycling education course. He has revealed that indeed, a lot of the material placed in recycling does indeed end up in the landfill. But the point is to attempt to reduce that to as much extent as possible.

I agree that the deposit amounts have not kept up with inflation and should be increased. 10 cents is not unreasonable.

Secret Agent Woman said...

They definitely need to get on board with recycling, but ultimately I think the real answer will be in reducing the use of plastics.