Co-Chairs: Daniel Koge & Travis Ota
Tour De Trash Field Trip
On Saturday, September 15,members of AWWA/HWEA YP attended the 20th annual Tour de Trash hosted by CCH ENV in Kapolei. Made up of multiple site visits, Tour de Trash is an opportunity for the public to see first-hand what happens to the opala we throw into our grey, green, and blue bins. Getting up close and personal with what gets tossed away was very eye opening and something we recommend everyone do at least once. There were about 40 people on this tour.
After jumping on a luxurious Roberts Hawaii bus, our first stop was to RRR Recycling in Campbell Industrial Park. All material from our blue bins get sent to RRR where it gets sorted by fans/gears and hands into their respective areas. When enough material is collected it gets compacted and sent to mainland or foreign recycling plants. The public, myself included, had lots of questions, especially about what does and does not belong in the blue bins.
Did you know? glass is VERY difficult to recycle in Hawaii so it’s better not to use it, HI-5 can go into the bins (RRR will try and sort them to redeem), don’t put recyclables in plastic bags (workers need to open them and check), and only corrugated cardboard is recyclable (flat cardboard is treated as trash).
Second on the list was H-Power, a CCH owned facility run by Covanta. Adjacent to a coal burning facility and biodiesel plant, H-Power is a
70 Mega-Watt operation and the main receiver of all trash here on Oahu. 80-90% of black bin material and bulky items get brought to H-Power as fuel for three different steam turbine generators. The electricity produced is sold to HECO; as the biggest ‘renewable’ electricity producer in Hawaii, H-Power has the capacity to power up to 10% of Oahu’s homes.
After burning, the remaining ash gets collected and sent to Waimanalo gulch (our third stop), while the smoke gets scrubbed, treated, and discharged. Thanks to the efforts of H-power, CCH has been able to divert 80% of the trash from our landfill and power our homes at the same time.
Next we headed out to Waimanalo gulch landfill, another CCH owned facility operated by a private contractor, Waste Management. What gets buried at aimanalo gulch isn’t instantly recognizable as ‘trash’; the landfill is mostly filled with the remaining ash from H-power’s electricity generation. Once an area is up to capacity the ash is covered with alternative capping (soil with native grasses and shrubs), while a new one is prepared using a sand and an HDPE membrane liner.
Gas and leachate collection
systems are in place all around the facility for leak detection. The gas collected is currently being burned off but CCH and HECO are looking into a methane-to-electricity facility option. Despite the low(er) volume of ash material needing to be disposed of, the current gulch is expected to last for another 20-30 years which, if you think about it, isn’t a whole lot of time. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to reduce what we throw away and reduce or recycle more.
Finally we took a short drive up to Wahiawa to visit Hawaiian Earth Products. As the sole recipient of Oahu’s green bin material, HEP reuses both public (green bin) and private (drop-off) material to make lush compost. Kept at ~140-degrees F, the hundreds of green material windrows are aerated and watered over the course of 3 months, shrinking by 30-40% in the process.
The final product is sold to outside companies, for landscaping and repackaging, so some of what you see at the local garden and home improvement stores is actually produced here on Oahu. You can also go down to HEP in Wahiawa yourself to pick up your own compost at a great rate, perfect for a large DIY garden project.
It was a great and engaging half-day well spent learning about how the City does their part to keep our aina clean. Special thanks to Nolan from RRR Recycling, Pete from H-Power, Tina from Waste Management, and Pat from Hawaiian Earth Products as well as ENV employees Evan, Bradley, and Julie-Anne for being our tour guides and answering our questions about ENV’s part in Oahu’s waste disposal. If you have any suggestions about tours that you want to go to please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see you at our next tour!