Ho‘oponopono Plastic Program collects to upcycle plastics

  • Contributed by Ho‘omalu Ke Kai

    Plastic gathered from island businesses is soaked and cleaned at Kaua‘i Community College in Puhi.

  • Contributed by Ho‘omalu Ke Kai

    Tim Leichliter sifts sand for microplastics on a Kaua‘i beach.

  • Contributed by Ho‘omalu Ke Kai

    Ho‘omalu Ke Kai’s Director of Sustainability Paul Baker shows off marine debris that could be turned into new products.

  • Contributed by Abe Kowitz

    Abe Kowitz, owner of Plastic Paradise Kaua‘i LLC holds up plastic containers behind his new designing machine that makes pots and benches out of clean recycled plastic.

  • Contributed by Plastic Paradise Kaua‘i LLC

    Plastic Paradise uses Shredder Pro and Extrusion Pro machines to transform other businesses’ trash into new treasures.

LIHU‘E — A Kaua‘i-based ocean-conservation group is ready to expand its commercial-plastic-collection initiative, but needs help getting to the next level.

“We’ve done a lot of ocean cleanups and beach cleanups,” said Tim Leichliter, director of operations for the nonprofit Ho‘omalu Ke Kai, in a recent interview. “But we’ve also realized that a large portion of the plastic problem is in the plastic that hasn’t even made it to nature yet.”

According to Leichliter, all plastic waste produced within a 25-mile radius of the ocean may be considered ocean-bound plastic.

The metric indicates effectively all plastic on Kaua‘i will wind up in the Pacific. With that in mind, Ho‘omalu Ke Kai created the free, Ho‘oponopono Plastic Program, to collect and clean unrecyclable plastic businesses would otherwise send to the Kekaha Landfill.

“If we can stop it at its source, then we don’t necessarily have to have us, or somebody else, deal with it in nature,” Leichliter explained.

The collected and cleaned material is then taken to Plastic Paradise in Kapa‘a, which accepts a greater variety of plastic types than the Kaua‘i County recycling program. There, owner Abe Kowitz shreds and turns the deliveries into new items like flower pots, chairs, picnic tables and more.

Currently, several businesses — including Kaua‘i Beer Company, Green Aloha Dispensary, Kaua‘i Juice Company, Ha Coffee Bar, Kaua‘i Sea Farm and Slow Island Food &Beverage Company — are diverting waste through Ho‘oponopono, and many more want in.

“(There is) demand for the idea that they can actually know where their plastic’s flowing, that it can be sustainably recycled here on the island and dealt with,” Leichliter said.

But right now, the Ho‘omalu Ke Kai team — which washes each piece of plastic by hand at Kaua‘i Community College — does not have the resources it needs to handle more clients.

That’s why the nonprofit is seeking donations and volunteers to help buy, build and operate a washing machine that will exponentially increase its capabilities.

“We’re probably able to process 20 pounds a week right now,” Leichliter said. “Having all the processing equipment … that’s going to bring us up to like at least 150 to 200 pounds.”

The total cost of parts required to complete the machine is $1,500, of which $350 has already been raised.

Leichliter recommends individuals interested in donating time or funds to the program contact Ho‘omalu Ke Kai online at hoomalukekai.com/. Interested businesses can fill out contact forms at hoomalukekai.com/hooponoponoplasticprogram.

Leichliter would also like to hear from other ocean-conservation organizations on Kaua‘i which may have their own stockpiles of debris.

“Maybe we can work with them to get as much of it upcycled and away from sitting out at the landfill as possible,” he said.

Plastic Paradise’s Kowitz also holds collection events, including at the Old Koloa Town Market. Dates, pickup-request forms and a list of accepted plastics are available online at plasticparadisekauai.com/collection.

“When somebody hands us a piece of plastic, they know that it’s going to become something else and be useful for a long period of time,” Kowitz said.

•••

Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or syunker@thegardenisland.com.

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