Volunteer workers Charles Stanton, left, and Robert Reed prepared to cut recycled metal roofing on Wednesday for use at the Keaau Recycling and Reuse Center, which opened yesterday. The federally funded demonstration project is intended to show Puna residents how to decrease trash going into landfills.

Big Isle site
promotes recycling

A federally funded program hopes
to cut trash going to landfills

By Rod Thompson

KEAAU, Hawaii >> If you build it, will they recycle?

A $400,000 federally funded recycling program is set up south of Hilo to find that out.

The Keaau Recycling and Reuse Center, "the Big Island's first solid waste convenience center," opened yesterday with ceremonies, educational displays and entertainment.

Sierra Club representative Charles Stanton was to bring a vintage Indian motorcycle built entirely with recycled parts.

In the center's reuse area, people can drop off the perfectly good rice cooker they never use, for example, and pick up something else, like a filing cabinet.

Behind the fun is serious business. The Hilo landfill doesn't meet state and federal standards and is overflowing.

Closure, postponed several times, is now set for late next year, when trash will form a hill 195 feet high.

After that, 90 tons of East Hawaii trash per day will be trucked to the West Hawaii landfill.

So Hawaii County, for-profit businesses and nonprofit agencies got together in a "collaborative effort" to foster recycling next to the Keaau Transfer Station, one of 15 rural Big Island sites where people bring trash for transfer to landfills.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funded the center.

The transfer station already has bins for aluminum cans, glass bottles, and newspapers. The recycling program hopes people will also separate certain plastics, tin cans, green waste, even crayons.

Will they?

Former Honolulu radio personality Skylark Rossetti, now working for the Hawaii island Economic Development Board, says it's no big deal.

When you've emptied your tuna can, rinse it, she says. Then throw it in a bucket with beer bottles, aluminum cans, and milk jugs. When you go to the transfer station (there is no trash pickup in rural areas), throw each recyclable in the right bin, she says.

Margaret Pahio, owner of Business Services Hawaii, says people have done this at her roadside recycling bins in the Panaewa Hawaiian Homes area for years.

She never tried plastics because they're more complicated, but the Keaau center will have staff explaining which plastics are recyclable and which aren't.

The center organizers practice what they preach. The ground-level flooring is made of "glass-crete," cement mixed with ground up glass bottles.

Shade is provided by used tent roofs. The only solid roof at the site is built with recycled roofing iron.

Everything thrown away, recycled or reused at the center will be weighed. The program hopes to show 25 percent of the material now going into the landfill can be kept out.

The 13-month pilot program is scheduled for just nine months of actual recycling, due to an EPA requirement. Participants hope for additional funding to continue it.

E-mail to City Desk


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