Hawaii Need’s to Burn its Recycling Program

Going green? Our society has seen some drastic changes when it comes to protecting the environment.  For some, when they hear the words “Global Warming,” Al Gore comes to mind. The Inconvenient Truth presentation given by Al Gore illustrates the harsh realities of our environmental impact on Earth. To this day, right before I throw my plastic bottle into the waste can or “grey barrel”, I can’t help but to stop and think of the melting iceberg with the adorable polar bear on it. When I do, I end up walking a few more feet just to make sure I place my bottle into the recycling can. I took a hydroponics course offered at my high school, Mid-Pacific Institute, which taught me it is possible to run an eco-system with zero impact on the environment. Large businesses like Coca-cola, Walmart, Whole Foods, and industrial farms are all taking part in the movement to lower their carbon footprint as well. “Mālama ‘Āina” is a Hawaiian phrase that means to care for and nurture the land and has been Hawaii’s foundation in improving standards to assure we minimize our impact on the small piece of land we are lucky to inhabit. Being small in size comes with it’s fair share of disadvantages.

Hawaii, like other cities, is facing a waste problem. Based on a recent research by the World Bank, the worldwide growth of municipal solid waste is approximated to increase by 70% by 2025. Post-consumer waste contributes to 5% of worldwide greenhouse-gas emanation. Hawaii received a basic lesson in 2005 on the economic impact of recycling. The state imposed a one cent fee and a five cent deposit on every beverage container (HI-5). People naturally respond well to monetary incentives, even with the five cent container incentive.  More often than not, local residents of Hawaii experience the economic pressures of the high-cost of living and HI-5 allowed for an opportunity to cash in their bottles for the five cent deposit. Since then, Hawaii has recycled approximately 4.2 billion bottles through the HI-5 program. This has aided in increasing the total diversion rate to 72%. The HI-5 program has helped citizens to recycle more than 70% of bottles sold in the state. Through this recycling program, consumers and residents have reduced containers from garbage stream and reduced litter in the state. However, the recycling economics have several other layers such as plant, metal, paper, plastic and clippings. Moreover, all of the items recycled have a dollar value in Hawaii. Although this dollar figure benefits the people, it hurts Hawaii’s budget for the recycle treatment programs altogether. Hawaii has one of the most aggressive recycling programs in the entire country. Yet, Hawaii needs to slow or end it’s recyclable program, and instead utilize H-POWER to burn recyclables into. The environmental and economic impact of H-POWER outweighs recycling in Hawaii.
Dumping waste into landfills is not an economical and sustainable approach for Hawaii either. Suzanne Jones, Honolulu County’s recycling coordinator for Honolulu County, states that “dumping our opala into landfills is not a sustainable approach for Island communities. Instead, she states that waste is a significant resource that should be used to generate power. In Hawaii, green waste is recycled into mulch. Glass is locally used to aid in constructing new roads and filling potholes. Local packing firms use paper fiber as filter material. The weight added up in tons from metals, plastics, glass and paper are forced to ship to Asia-based brokers and the mainland. This costs the state hundreds of thousands of dollars a year with close to zero profit, but more importantly this process does not have a positive impact on the environment. Waste should be perceived as a resource, thereby generating power and making new products with greater economic benefit. The H-POWER is located on Oahu and burns Hawaii’s waste materials; it heats steam and generates energy to power a turbine that produces approximately 8% of the city’s electricity. Simultaneously, it minimizes trash sent to the landfill by about 90%. In the year, 2013 H-POWER burned 40.3% of overall municipal solid waste or 498,000 tons of waste. For every ton of waste that was burned, a barrel of oil and the fossil fuel required to ship the waste was saved. Evidently, the H-POWER is a win-win strategy; it can generate huge profits by selling its electricity and harvesting valuable metals. The H-POWER plant is ideal in helping any nation achieve its renewable energy goals.
The HI-5 economics are somewhat challenging. Hawaii has been accumulating $55 million each year from the six cents imposed on all beverage bottles at point-of-sale. Moreover, the state has been spending from $49 million to $63 million depending on the overall percentage of beverage containers recycled each year.  Recently, the Health Department of Hawaii proposed that consumers should incur an extra fee of 0.5 cents per HI-5 container to solve the state’s expenses of overseeing and processing the deposit fee. Presently, residents are charged five cents for the deposit and a nonrefundable one cent to facilitate the processing. The increase in recycling rates implies that the initial six cents is not sufficient in covering all costs.  Additionally, dumping waste into landfills does not make environmental sense for Hawaii. The environmental impact and benefits of waste recycling are well known. According to a study carried out by the Technical University of Denmark (Study of Life Cycle Analysis of 55 materials), it was found that recycling materials is more environmentally beneficial compared to other ways of disposal. For example, aluminum illustrated a 95% energy reduction when using cast-off aluminum opposed to extracting it raw from a mine. However, recycling was important before the introduction of H-POWER. Initially it made sense for recyclables to be dumped into landfills or shipped away, but presently it is hurting Hawaii. According to Danish research, many curbside recycling receptacles are not economically self-sustaining. Apart from those are dense urban centers with high landfill expenses and are close to ports for easy shipping. Or course, larger states don’t need to worry so much about available space for landfills. Mainland companies still choose to carry out waste-to-energy rather than put waste in landfills.
It makes more environmental and economic sense to carry out waste-to-energy rather than dumping waste in landfills here in Hawaii as well. Initially it made financial and environmental sense for recyclables to be dumped into landfills. However, does not benefit Hawaii. The H-POWER is more effective since it burns waste materials. It heats steam and fuels energy to power a turbine that produces electricity. Simultaneously, it minimizes trash sent to landfills by about 90%. Waste should be perceived as a resource, hence generating power and making new products with greater economic benefit.  The H-POWER plant is ideal in helping any nation achieve its renewable energy goals. The more waste H-POWER is able to burn the more energy will be produced for the state. Make a change and re-evaluate where you should place that empty bottle next time you are headed to the trash.


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