In my new business, it’s important that I meet as many contacts as I can. In addition to all the volunteer work I already do, I could hang out at coffee places and various other socially active spots around the island. Instead, what do I choose to do? The Tour de Trash! Hey, it’s not as crazy as it sounds! You meet the most interesting people at things like this!
Actually, it was quite educational. Peter blogged about a year ago that he wondered whether recycling on Maui was a real thing or if the stuff just ended up in the landfills anyway. Well, he got his answer yesterday in spades. The tour was sponsored by the County of Maui and was aimed at educating the public about the ever-growing trash problem on the island and the recycling efforts available.
We all met in Kahului and boarded a school bus to tour the landfill, EKO Composting, Pacific Biodiesel, SOS Metal Recycling, the Materials Recovery Facility, Foodland Ka’ahumanu and Aloha Recycling.
I liked the composting and co-composting areas. I can go and get a truckload of mulch for free! They get way too much green waste from landscapers to keep up. Co-composting is a whole other level. That is where they combine processed sewer sludge (really smelly) to the mulch and compost it under specially controlled conditions. 8 months later, you have beautiful, sanitary compost that is bagged and sold or purchased by local landscapers.
It was amazing to see these huge machines lower their talons and grab hold of cars, smashing the windows in the process, then lift them into the jaws of these enormous compactors. The resulting blocks of crushed metal are then lowered onto the ground and the talons move on to water heaters, washing machines and so on. Quite impressive!
I also learned that while they do recycle plastic bags, the trade winds come up while they’re sitting in the pile waiting to be processed and they blow miles away, sometimes ending up in the water where they’re eaten by turtles and other animals. We either have to make sure they’re tightly tied together or balled up when we recycle them, or we just don’t get them in the first place.
By far the most difficult thing to recycle here is glass. The county facility doesn’t have the equipment needed to crush all the bottles and such, so they basically roll over it with whatever they have, but it’s not the ideal solution. The resulting product ends up being harder to sell primarily because there is no clear use on Maui.
The county has a hard time balancing the needs for recycling with the costs. Most recycled material needs to be shipped off island which adds a lot of costs. But the planned 10-year landfill filled up in 2 years. They know something must be done. Then add the issue that if you don’t provide an economic way of getting rid of old cars, appliances and other trash, it ends up on the side of the road.