Taste of Hawai‘i goes green

WAILUA — One of the largest annual events on Kaua‘i has also become the greenest.

Almost everything from the cutlery to the cooking oil was either recycled or composted at the 20th anniversary of Taste of Hawai‘i yesterday at Smith’s Tropical Paradise in Wailua.

Zero Waste Kaua‘i, a grassroots organization that advocates recycling, secured a permit to compost the food waste from the event for the first time ever on Kaua‘i.

“We wanted to help the Taste of Hawai‘i go green,” said Jennifer Sifuentes of Aloha, We Deliver! and Zero Waste Kaua‘i. “We have coordinated a Max 3R plan so that not only the biodegradable products are composted, but the glass, HI5, cardboard and even the used vegetable oil, will all be recycled.”

Officials, such as Kaua‘i County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, have pushed local decision-makers to invest in such plans — which strive for maximum reduce, reuse, recycle.

Most of the plates, cups and utensils used by vendors at the Taste of Hawai‘i were made of renewable resources, such as corn, potatoes and bagasse, a byproduct of sugarcane.

A 40-foot container, a 20-foot container and three trash bins were used last year for all the waste, Sifuentes said.

“Ideally at the end (of this year’s event), we will look at how much goes into the landfill and how much goes to compost and compare to last year,” she said.

Yesterday, dozens of Zero Waste Kaua‘i volunteers manned the garbage cans strategically placed around the venue. Each can was designated for recyclables, compostables or waste.

As Taste of Hawai‘i patrons finished using their plates, cups and utensils, volunteers directed which can to toss the trash. And if a biodegradable utensil or cup accidentally made it into the waste or recyclable bin, volunteers would don gloves, fish it out and put it in the right bin.

“People are very receptive to it,” said Tracey Shavone, a Zero Waste Kaua‘i volunteer. “People are surprised they can throw away the plastic.”

As volunteers repeatedly informed patrons their used plastic cups and cutlery were compostable, throwing away garbage became less confusing as the day wore on. Some even started to reuse their biodegradable forks.

“Everyone’s real compliant and happy to help,” said Pamela Saunders, a Zero Waste Kaua‘i volunteer. “People are surprised that the cups and cutlery are made of potatoes and corn.”

Paige and Russ Talvi, owners of Gaylord’s at Kilohana and the Hukilau Lanai, were very receptive to the use of biodegradable serviceware at the event.

“We are loving this,” Paige Talvi said. “We just all have to learn how to (use biodegradables).”

For this pilot project, the food waste from the Taste of Hawaii will be taken to Kaua‘i Nursery and Landscaping, the main green waste recycler on island, to be composted.

Once the food waste is composted, samples will be taken from the grid for a chemical analysis, Sifuentes said.

Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative will pay for the lab fees for the chemical analysis, she added.

“If we prove this pilot project works, the goal is for Kaua‘i Nursery to get a permit to do food waste permanently,” Sifuentes said.

Glass from the event will go to JC Sandblasting, the cardboard will go to Kaua‘i Aloha Services and the cooking oil will go to Adam Asquith of Kaua‘i Farm Fuel.

Event organizer Anne Barnes was happy the plan to use biodegradables was going so well.

“This is so working,” she said. “It’s amazing. … Everyone is just so receptive.”

The more than four-hour feast featured 50 of the state’s top chefs, 15 beverage stations, 13 musical groups and auctions, according to www.tasteofhawaii.com. The festival is a major fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Kapa‘a, a nonprofit group.

• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or rgehrlein@kauaipubco.com.

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