Look in pretty much any trash container on Kauai and what do you see? Yes, lots of trash, but, unfortunately, also lots of what is not trash. And by that, we mean glass bottles, aluminum cans and plastic containers. And that means they are headed to Kauai’s precious landfill space. We use the word “precious” because, on an island, when you’re dedicating limited land to a place where trash can be buried, that’s what it is.
So why are so many people still tossing items that should be recycled into the trash? In this day of environmental awareness, when we all hear the stories of litter on beaches, our ocean filled with garbage and the need to reuse and recycle, why doesn’t everyone listen?
One, they don’t care.
Two, they don’t know any better.
Three, those who do care are doing a lousy job of informing those that don’t care about the consequences of their decisions.
More needs to be done to promote recycling, especially on an island.
That’s why we would welcome the state’s HI5 program, that offers 5 cents on each beverage container labeled with HI5 that is redeemed, to become the HI10 program. As it stands, Hawaii consumers here pay an extra 6 cents on every can and bottle they buy at the store. And that’s a lot. We’re talking 900 million beverage containers each year sold in the state. While many people do recycle, many do not. Too many. They’re not worried about that extra 72 cents they just paid for that 12-pack of beer they just bought. If you want proof, visit our parks and check out what’s in those trash cans. Even if there are recycle containers nearby, too many people pay them no attention.
Which is why we would like to see the state charge a container deposit of 11 cents per bottle, can and plastic bottle sold. If you think that’s crazy, it’s not. Others are doing it. Oregon and Michigan charge 10 cents. In California, consumers pay a nickel for containers under 24 ounces and a dime for containers over 24 ounces.
The higher the fee, the more likely people will be sure to turn those items in. People wouldn’t like it, just as they don’t like paying higher taxes. But if it explained why, they will support it.
Kauai is trying to encourage recycling, and there are several places you can recycle cans and bottles. But more needs to be done. It should be pounding home the need to recycle at every turn. It should be spreading that message everywhere, all the time. There are events on this island where there are only trash cans available — nothing that indicates recycling. Let’s encourage recycling always. Landfill space, as we know, is finite. On Kauai, this is even more critical.
If the county could offer curbside recycling, that would have a big impact. The easier you make it for people to recycle, the more will do it. But, until a materials recovery facility is constructed, that won’t happen. As the county explains on its website: “A MRF contains a sort line to separate co-mingled recyclables and would enable the County to collect all types of food and beverage containers, as well as mixed paper and cardboard in a single blue recycling bin at your curb. The County does not have plans to construct a MRF at this time.”
We do praise the county’s Department of Public Works Division of Solid Waste for its recent shift to image-based signage for plastic collection through the Kauai Recycles residential collection program.
The new signage illustrates common containers that are in and out of the program.
“Our office understands that plastic recycling can be very confusing compared to more straightforward material like cardboard, paper and aluminum,” said Solid Waste Programs Coordinator Allison Fraley in a press release. “With this new signage residents should be able to quickly assess the material they have and recognize if it’s recyclable or not. It’s not enough to know if an item is a #1 or #2 plastic anymore. We have to educate the public further and show them exactly the type of material that’s accepted.”
We agree. Let people know what to recycle, where and how. And, most important, let them know why the need to recycle is so great.
Perhaps then this island’s trash cans will be filled with trash rather than what should be recycled.