‘Rubbish pile’ filled with treasures — and memories

Longtime Kapaa residents might enjoy this column. Neat freaks and germophobes might not.

The first time I saw it, I was horrified. I had no idea it would someday become a permanent part of my life.

Wayne and I had been married barely a week when he asked me if I wanted to go with him to drop off some trash at the Kapaa “Rubbish Pile.”

I don’t even know if that was ever its official name but that’s what he called it and that’s definitely what it was: a huge, rather disgusting pile of crumpled-up paper, rusting tin cans, unrecognizable substances, unpleasantly mysterious odors, and flies … millions, maybe even billions of flies (OK, so I was exaggerating about the flies but you get the picture).

Trips to the rubbish pile had been a weekly routine for Wayne and his older brother, Dennis, for years. They would go “shopping” for bicycle parts from used bikes thrown away at the rubbish pile.

They used the parts to repair, rebuild and even create bigger and better bikes for their personal use.

That was the first thing they “shopped” there. It was by no means the last.

When they got old enough, they got driver’s licenses and jobs, and eventually each saved up enough money to buy their own “fixer-uppers:” second- sometimes third-hand cars that needed to be, well, fixed up.

Parts for their projects usually came from the “Parts Department” at what by this time we called “The Dump.” Junked up cars were dumped there by previous owners and piled one on top of the other.

“I remember flipping cars to get to a part I needed,” Wayne once told me.

Car parts weren’t the only thing people threw away. Some of it was good stuff with lots more life left that ended up at the dump simply because they had been replaced by something newer.

Some people were kind. They would carefully leave their items apart from the rubbish, hoping folks who could use them would find them. And more often than not, they did.

You might almost say they were recycling long before recycling was “invented” or became the politically correct buzzword of the day.

Once when my youngest son had outgrown them, Wayne decided to take his stroller and car seat to the dump. They were in excellent condition and I didn’t really want to part with them but Wayne insisted (he has always felt if you no longer need it, you get rid of it). It turned out he was right. We went back later and they were already gone.

One year, a determined Garden Island photographer with a surplus of time, skill, and a sense of humor set up a shot of a living room, dining room and bedroom, using furniture he found at the dump.

It accompanied a story on what you could find there and I have always suspected may have led to the bans on “scavenging” at the dumps that were to come later.

The Kapaa site eventually evolved through several incarnations. The rubbish pile was just the first. (On a regular basis, fires were deliberately set to burn off the papers and other disposable items. The noxious smoke was a big problem for neighbors whose homes were in the area. The fires eventually stopped.) Next, or so I have heard, dirt was used to cover the piles of trash.

Finally in 1976, hoppers were put in and the dump became a real transfer station, according to a helpful county employee I asked for information.

Today, it is officially a refuse transfer station, one of several on Kauai. Refuse Transfer Stations accept mixed waste from residents free of charge, although there are charges for commercial deposit of green waste.

We still take our family’s trash to the transfer station on a weekly basis and have for years.

This was not meant to be an official, documented history of the Kapaa site; just a collection of memories I wanted to share. Aloha.


Rita De Silva is a former editor of The Garden Island and a Kapaa resident.


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