Total Solid Waste Reduction
Recovering waste that would otherwise end up in our landfills benefits our Islands by preserving the environment, creating local jobs and economic opportunities for local business. Waste recovery allows us to re-purpose materials for a second life right here in Hawaiʻi, such as green waste for composting or mulch. The vast majority of materials are recycled outside the state of Hawaiʻi (e.g. paper and plastics). Landfill diversion also has global environmental benefits by reducing the need to extract raw materials from mines, such as aluminum, and decreases the amount of methane gas released into our atmosphere as waste decomposes. According to the EPA, methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities. Behind industry (e.g. natural gas and petroleum systems) and agriculture sources (e.g. domestic livestock, such as cattle which produce methane as part of its normal digestive process), landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the U.S., which has a significant impact on climate change.
The state definition of waste reduction specifically excluded "incineration and landfill" but was silent on "waste-to-energy". The primary indicator this target does not include H-POWER metrics which are represented in a separate chart below.
Total Solid Waste Reduction includes many activities of which not all are easily measured. For instance, there are citizen science data collection opportunities for residential re-use such as home composting that are not all captured in these datasets. See the resources section below to learn more about waste reduction activities at the community level across the Islands.
State Diversion Rate, including & excluding H-POWER
Figure 1. Including the City and County of Honolulu’s H-POWER Waste-to Energy facility, the state’s total solid waste reduction increases to over 70%. Additionally, H-POWER reduces the weight of waste by 75% and the volume of waste by 90%. This has extended the life of Oʻahu’s landfill by saving hundreds of acres of landfill space.
H-POWER is capable of processing up to 3,000 tons per day of municipal solid waste and can generate up to 70 megawatts of electricity, enough to fulfill about 10% of Oʻahu’s electricity needs. The electricity H-POWER produces also displaces the need to import about 30 million gallons of petroleum per year.
Quick Fact: 70 megawatts of electricity is enough to power 60,000 homes.
Solid Waste Reduction by County
Figure 3. The above graph shows each county’s solid waste reduction in percentages.
Learn More and Make a Difference
What You Can Do
We can all do our part to reduce waste—from buying less to re-purposing items, or recycling more. Here are just a few tips to get you started.
- Before making a purchase, determine whether you “need” or simply “want” the item.
- Repair items rather than replacing them with something new.
- Buy products in bulk with reusable containers to reduce packaging waste.
- Use reusable containers, such as water bottles, rather than single use containers.
- Re-use Hawaii is a non-profit organization that diverts tons of reusable building material from landfills each week and makes this material—from doors and sinks, to lumber and lamps—available to the public. Their Kakaako, Oʻahu warehouse is open six days a week.
- Purchase lightly used items at local thrift shops, and drop off your own goods.
- Find creative ways to transform old stuff into something new, or look for items that have already made the transformation, like bags made from plastic containers.
- On Oʻahu, donate any bike with good, usable parts to the Kalihi Valley Instructional Bike Exchange (K-VIBE), a nonprofit bicycle shop that serves as an intervention program for the at-risk youth of Kalihi Valley. Drop off bikes when the center is open at 1638 Kamehameha IV Road.
- Green your workplace by setting up convenient recycling tactics, such as a bin for papers only used on one side.
- Create a backyard compost. There are many different methods that work for a variety of different living situations. Here are a few local resources.
- Want to compost, but live in an apartment? Urban composting is possible!
- Interested in vermicomposting, otherwise known as composting with worms? Here are a couple of Hawaii suppliers: Kokua Worms & Hawai‘i Rainbow Worms
Join a local organization involved in waste reduction
- Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation’s Plastic Free Hawaiʻi Program provides resources, tools, and trainings to educate schools, business partners, and community members about the environmental and health benefits of going plastic free.
- Surfrider Foundation’s Rise Against Plastics Campaign reduces plastic waste by raising awareness and taking action. The nonprofit has local chapters in Hilo, Kona, Kauai, Maui and Oahu.
- Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi holds regular beach clean-ups, as well as recruits and trains volunteers , educates schools and community groups on solutions for reducing plastic pollution.
- The State of Hawaiʻi Department of Health, Solid & Hazardous Waste Branch provides information about solid waste rules, links to permit applications and instructions, as well as fact sheets and publications with information on public issues and instructions for responsible ways to reduce, recycle, and dispose of specific waste materials.
- The Environmental Protection Agency's West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum is an EPA-led partnership of western cities and states that are developing and sharing ways to integrate lifecycle materials management policies and practices into climate actions.
- The US Environmental Protection Agency provides a plethora of information on Solid Waste.
- Kauaʻi County's Division of Solid Waste provides information about Kauaʻi’s solid waste program.
- Find out more about Kauaʻi County’s zero waste resolution.
- Zero Waste Kauaʻi focuses on educating the public and community leaders on the benefits of a zero waste philosophy and helps organizations put on zero waste events.
- City and County of Honolulu, Department of Environmental Services provides information about Oahu’s solid waste program, as well as many educational tools and resources within their learning center, and online resource library.
- The County of Maui manages a variety of landfill diversion programs servicing the tri-isle area of Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi. Plastic bottles #1 and #2, cardboard, newspaper, glass, aluminum and bi-metals cans are collected at residential drop box centers on Maui and Molokaʻi, and in a pilot curbside recycling program on Maui. Drop-off facilities for electronic waste and used motor oil are also provided. Recycling options for large appliances, scrap metals, tires, auto batteries, and propane tanks are offered in different capacities on all three islands. Additionally, a Household Hazardous Waste event is conducted annually on Maui.
- In efforts to focus on waste and litter reduction, the Recycling Office administers and enforces county plastic bag and polystyrene foam food container bans. The “BYO! Bring Your Own…” campaign provides tools and education to empower residents to reduce their use of single-use plastics and to rethink their consumer choices.
- A Recycling Grants program provides funding to businesses and non-profits to either start up or improve their recycling enterprises. Maui County also partners with non-profit organizations to provide litter and recycling education, collection events for hard-to-recycle items, and beach and highway clean-up events in order to educate residents about how their discarded items can affect the environment and encourage them to take action to decrease the impacts of their waste.
- Maui County, Department of Environmental Management, Division of Solid Waste provides information about Maui’s solid waste program.
- Find out more about Maui County’s zero waste campaign.
- County of Hawaiʻi, Department of Environmental Management, Solid Waste Division provides information about Hawaiʻi’s solid waste program.