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Recycling

MATERIAL RECOVERY IN HAWAII – THE NEXT STEP

Oahu now has island-wide curbside recycling.  Tons of recyclable materials are gathered and sorted, but that’s where the efficiency and vision of truly sustainable handling of this material falters. In order to complete the cycle of true recycling these materials would ideally be reused here in Hawaii.  Without the capabilities and industrial facilities to accomplish that the materials are shipped to overseas buyers.  The oil burned for the shipping process alone paints a rather grim carbon footprint over the process.  Another major impediment is the growing undesirability of many of the plastics collected and sorted.  The question then remains what capabilities can we add here in Hawaii to close the loop?

Honolulu's curbside recycling and the Hi5 beverage can redemption program produce tons of recyclable material.

We should strive to find local applications for all recyclable material which include paper, cardboard, several grades of plastic, glass and various metals. For example there are technologies available today that can render almost all grades of plastic into useable diesel fuel. This would seem to be a fare better solution than even our H-power waste-to-energy facility, which, in turn, is a far better solution than landfills.  Glass is another material sorted by our curbside recycling program that is growing more difficult to market outside of Hawaii.  Local uses could include using the crushed glass as a component of asphalt and concrete.

Some jurisdiction have actually used processed glass as an additive to beach sand. That might sound like a recipe for disaster, but where it has been tried the wave action has polished the glass particles to be indistinguishable from naturally produced sand.

Advanced waste-to-energy technologies have made clean-burning of most municipal waste materials a near-term reality. Sophisticated gasification processes can produce usable electrical power as well as fuel products.  The idea of one day actually “mining” our old landfill sites for the “valuable” materials that we once discarded is a distinct possibility.

Even remaining MSW can be recycled into usable products rather than landfilled. One idea is for regional material recovery operations near where recyclable waste is generated.. These facilities could produce building materials (hollow tile blocks) and refuse derived fuel pellets (RDF).

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. EnviroFusion permalink
    February 3, 2011 11:16 am

    I agree, we really should recycle ALL grades of plastic and not just be limited to PETE 1 & 2. We can certainly find more ways to used the recycled material.

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