Archive for the ‘Plastic’ Category

Year 2014 in eco-retrospective

December 26th, 2014
By



 

Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

It was a year of highs, and a year of lows for the environment. There were several milestones, and there remain many unknowns for the upcoming year of 2015. Below is a summary of the markers for the year 2014, as I saw it.

1. Plastic overload. The year 2014 was the year of plastic, as has been the case in previous years. This year, the alarm is at an all-time high. A new study published in December by the scientific journal, PLOS ONE, reported that an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic (enough to fill more than 38,500 garbage trucks) is floating in the world's ocean, and that's only the plastic that's on the surface, not the ocean floor. Not only that, but the plastic breaks down into more than 5 trillion pieces. The impacts of all this plastic in our oceans as well as the food chain (including the fish and seafood we eat) are still unknown. Read the AP story posted Dec. 13, 2014 at staradvertiser.com.

2. Plastic-bag free. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 38 in September, officially banning retailers from distributing plastic carryout bags, including biodegradable bags. But the law doesn't go into effect until July 1, 2015. With that in place, Oahu joins Maui, Kauai and the Big Island in banning plastic bags at checkout. Apparently, the reaction among our readers was to start hoarding plastic bags (49 percent of our readers, based on our Big Q poll). In September, California was the first to implement a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores.

3. Monk seal hospital. Ke Kai Ola, the new Hawaiian monk seal hospital in Kona, held its grand opening and blessing on Sept. 2. The Marine Mammal Center's $3.2 million facility is dedicated to giving sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals a second chance. Four young, malnourished monk seals, Kulia, Ikaika, Hala‘i and Maka‘ala, were admitted on July 9 after being rescued from the northwestern Hawaiian islands.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

4. Monk seal death. This year also marked a sad occurrence, with the suspicious death of a monk seal pup on the north shore of Kauai in November. Monk seal pup RF58 died from apparent blunt force trauma to the head. She was only about 4 to 5 months old, the daughter of Rocky, or RH58. An initial reward offer of $5,000 doubled to $10,000. In an unprecedented move, The Garden Island newspaper also decided to offer a $10,000 reward.

5. Expanded protection. President Barack Obama in September, through presidential proclamation, extended the protection zone around the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by about 50 nautical miles. It was heralded as a victory by many conservation organizations in Hawaii who testified in favor of it.

6. HECO roller coaster. The Hawaii Electric Cos., the utility for the islands of Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, touched a major public nerve when its Aug. 26 plan was received by the Public Utilties Commission, proposing that the basic connection fees for customers in Honolulu be raised to a minimum of $55. On top of that, HECO attempted to drive a wedge between solar and non-solar customers, blamed its aging grid problems on solar PV customers and asked that new solar customers pay additional fees to connect. This came at a time when more than 3,500 solar PV customers were still waiting, from 9 months to a year, to get connected. Even DBEDT criticized the utility for putting its own profits above public interest while continuing to adhere to an outdated business model. Then in December HEI announced Florida-based NextEra would acquire the company for $4.3 billion, pending approval by the PUC. It's unknown how NextEra will treat individual solar PV customers. Let's just hope that battery storage systems become more affordable in coming years so that customers who want to get solar PV can do so, without worrying about the utility's grid.

7. Solar. It was not a good year for the solar industry in Hawaii. As reported in the Star-Advertiser business section, roof solar permits issued in Honolulu fell by 50 percent. Only 520 permits were issued by the city last month compared to 1,040 in November 2013 despite the availability of both state and federal tax credits (the federal tax credit is set to expire Dec. 31, 2016). Looking at the overall picture, though, the Hawaii State Energy Office noted that distributed renewable energy system installations increased significantly from 12,560 in 2012 to 18,316  in 2013. At the end of the year, the cumulative number of systems statewide totaled 40,717 with a total capacity of 253.5 Megawatt (MW). The state also ranked first in energy performance contracting in the nation with an investment of $235.74 per capita, and earned a third, consecutive Race to the Top award from the Energy Services Coalition in 2014.

8. Bronze for bikes. Honolulu earned its first bronze as a bicycle-friendly city from the League of American Bicyclists. Honolulu is the first municipality in Hawaii to achieve the bronze. Bicycle activists say Honolulu made strides in five areas, including engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation. They also laud the new King St. Cycle Track as a big step forward.

9.  Invasive species. From downed albizia trees on the Big Island to little fire ants and coconut rhinoceros beetles, the year 2014 was a year to monitor potentially destructive invasive species. The state department of agriculture does the best that it can on a meager budget. The albizia trees got plenty of attention during tropical storm Iselle, when they fell like a row of matchsticks and downed power lines. The little fire ants made their way to Mililani Mauka. The latest coconut rhino beetle, previously discovered around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam,  was found in a trap at Kakaako Waterfront Park. Add to the list, a coconut crab in Salt Lake, and an emu on the Big Island.

10. Electric Vehicles. The number of people driving electric vehicles in Hawaii continues to grow. As of October 2014, DBEDT estimated the number of passenger electric vehicles in the state was 3,026, up 54.5 percent, from 1,068 from the same month a year ago. More charging stations are also popping up around the isles. Volta just announced two free charging stations outside of Whole Foods Market in Kahului, Maui.

Hoarding plastic bags

October 1st, 2014
By



 

Plastic bag caught in the fence near Kakaako Waterfront Park. Photo by Nina Wu.

Plastic bag caught in the fence near Kakaako Waterfront Park. Photo by Nina Wu.

So, now it's official.

Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 38 into law on Thursday, Sept. 25, which would ban retailers from distributing plastic carryout bags — including biodegradable  bags — starting July 1, 2015.

Oahu follows Maui, Kauai and the Big Island in banning plastic  bags at checkout. But California, not Hawaii, became the first state to ban plastic bags yesterday.

In the first version of the bill, biodegradable bags would have been exempted, until environmentalists pointed out they can be just as damaging in the ocean. Compostable bags that meet the standards of ASTM International are allowed.

The bag ban, though not perfect, is great news for our environment. It's going to be an adjustment for folks who take plastic bags for granted.

In our recent Big Q poll,  the majority of readers (346) said they plan to start hoarding plastic takeout bags in response to the news. I imagine some began hoarding as soon as they heard Honolulu was considering a ban.

How will you prepare for Oahu’s plastic-bag ban at stores, to be effective July 1?

  • B. Start hoarding plastic bags (49%, 346 Votes)
  • A. Start using recyclable bags (33%, 231 Votes)
  • C. Already stopped using plastic (18%, 123 Votes) 

It cracks me up because I know people like that — people like my mom, who believe if something's free, then take it. At the checkout at Marukai, I remember watching an elderly Japanese lady at a packing table by the exit, meticulously wrapping each purchase, big and small, in a separate plastic bag.

Why would you hoard plastic bags? So you can have a lifetime supply without ever having to purchase any plastic bags for your wastebaskets?

On the other hand, too many plastic bags do come with a cost – an overhead cost that businesses pass on to consumers for the convenience and a high environmental cost to this beautiful paradise we live in. On average, one shopper uses 500 bags in one year. Plastic bags are choking up our waterways, breaking into chemical-laden pieces in our oceans. They offer short-term convenience, but long-term consequences. Burning them at H-power is not the answer (not for the health of the air we breathe in).

Reducing them is part of the solution. That's what this law will do.

I've been bringing my own bags to the store for several years now, and believe me, life is still fine. Our home isn't completely plastic bag-free yet, due to visitors and other household members who sometimes bring them in. But there's just a small cluster, (which yes, I line my wastebaskets with), compared to a large monster ball beneath the kitchen sink. You start to discover that you don't need so many, certainly not that huge monster ball amount.

Here are some ideas on how we can use fewer plastic bags:

>> Consolidate. So maybe we don't need so many small, plastic bags. On trash day, dump the contents of your wastebasket into the larger trash bag before taking it out. Reduce the number of bags you use. When you have mostly dry waste, this isn't a big deal. Wet waste is tougher.

>> Compost. You can reduce trash by composting food waste - vegetable peelings, apple cores, leftover pasta and bread, and put it back into your garden.

>> Reuse. Think of the other plastic bags that we get which are still available. Get creative. Bread bags, newspaper bags, sack of potato bags.  Bread bags and newspaper bags work just fine for picking up dog poop, another common complaint about the ban of plastic grocery bags.

>> Recycle. Are there things that you throw out in the trash which can actually be recycled? Remember, No. 1 and 2 plastics go in the blue bin. That includes pretty much all shampoo bottles, laundry detergent bottles, etc., as well as glass jelly  jars, newspapers, corrugated cardboard pizza boxes, etc.

>> BYOB. Bring your own bags to the store - keep a dozen in your car, and at least one or two of the Chicobag, Envirosax or Baggu kind (that fold up small) in your purse or backpack. I like the large, square-bottomed and insulated ones I got for supporting PBS Hawaii. I also love the ones from Trader Joe's. Or, try the Costco method and keep an empty cardboard box in the car. I'm hoping people will be encouraged to bring their own bags instead of collecting piles of paper bags at home.

And when you have no choice but to use a bag for your wastebasket, there are alternatives out there like Biobags, which are compostable. Just don't let them get into the ocean.

Plastic bag monster sculpture created by the Shanghai chapter of Jane Goodall Institute's Roots & Shoots. From youbentmywookie.com.

Plastic bag monster sculpture created by the Shanghai chapter of Jane Goodall Institute's Roots & Shoots. From youbentmywookie.com.

Marine debris art

July 31st, 2014
By



Honolulu artist Shannon McCarthy painted this monk seal ocean scene on five reclaimed wood panels and a border made out of invasive strawberry guava wood. The panels will be on display at the Jack Johnson concerts Aug. 1 and 2. Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Honolulu artist Shannon McCarthy created this monk seal ocean scene mosiac on five reclaimed wood panels bordered by invasive strawberry guava. The mosaic will be on display at the Jack Johnson concerts Aug. 1 and 2 at Waikiki Shell. Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

 

So, what do you do with all of that plastic debris — small pieces of broken-down plastics, or microplastics — cleaned from the beach?

For Honolulu artist and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii volunteer, Shannon McCarthy, the answer is, get creative and make art.

She created a Hawaiian monk seal ocean scene (two adult monk seals, one pup) on the North Shore on five wooden panels constructed out of reclaimed wood with a border of invasive strawberry guava wood. The mosaic was first unveiled at a beach cleanup at Point Panic (Kakaako) in June, then went on display at Honolulu Hale. It will be up at the Jack Johnson concert at Waikiki Shell Aug. 1 and 2. 

The microplastics were collected using rudimentary sand sifters, then separated and glued to the panels. Students from Kainalu Elementary, St. John Vianney, St. Louis School,  St. Anthony, Kahaluu Elementary and members of Girl Scouts Troop 840 all pitched in on the artwork, as well as helped with beach cleanups over the past three months, collecting the marine debris.

"The mosaics are inspired by the need to spread awareness of plastics and marine debris in all the oceans," said McCarthy, "how to reduce or eliminate our daily impact on it, and how drastically beautiful Hawaii and its inhabitants are being affected by this pollution."

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii's first Ultimate Sand Sifter Challenge, meanwhile, is still on. The contest encourages Oahu residents to create and build sand sifters to efficiently remove the microplastics from the sand on the beach.

"The hope is that this mural will directly inspire people to pay attention to the overwhelming amount of marine debris affecting our coastlines," said SCH executive director Kahi Pacarro. "Our Sand Sifter Challenge is meant to foster out-of-the-box thinking, entrepreneurial spirit and teamwork to tackle a growing problem that, if not addressed, will lead to an unsustainable future for Hawaii's coastlines."

The sand sifters must be human powered and built for under $300. The winning team wins a $2,500 cash prize plus an additional $2,500 to replicate five sand sifters. Submissions for the contest are due Sept. 26. Visit sustainablecoastlineshawaii.org/ultimate-sand-sifter-challenge to learn more.

 

Sand Sifter Challenge

July 3rd, 2014
By



SandSifterChallenge

Got creative design and build talents?

Then get ready for the first Ultimate Sand Sifter Challenge by Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Kupu. Both organizations are challenging contestants to design the ultimate sand sifter to remove microplastics from Hawaii's beaches. Microplastics, tiny pieces of broken-down plastic that wash ashore from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, are a hazard to marine animals that consume them.

If you've ever visited any windward Oahu beach, look down and what you may think are colorful shells are actually tiny pieces of plastic.

Deadline for online submissions is due Sept. 26.

Register with your name, affiliation, email, a phone number and then, simply, a drawing and description of your sifter design. The sifter must be human-powered (using no gas or fossil fuels) and should be designed and constructed for under $300, with an emphasis on reused, recycled and sustainable materials.

"Marine debris is going to continue washing ashore until we as global citizens drastically reduce our use of unnecessary plastics," said executive director Kahi Pacarro. "Until that time, in order for our beaches to remain the nicest in the world,  the public will need to #cleanyobeach! Sand sifters make our work easier and will promote newer ideas to make our work more efficient and educational."

Last summer, RevoluSun donated a sandsifter for a beach cleanup at Sandy's Beach. Check out their design.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii will announce the designs that have been green lighted Oct. 3. Participating individuals then have until Nov. 14 to build their sand sifters. The final competition will be held Nov. 15 at Kailua Beach Park. Winner gets $2,500 plus an additional $2,500 to build their sand sifter for partner organizations that clean Oahu's coastlines.

Can you design and build a sand sifter to separate out microplastics? Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Can you design and build a sand sifter to separate out microplastics? Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Polystyrene foam happy?

June 13th, 2014
By



Polystyrene foam takeout boxes are common for plate lunches in Honolulu. We pretty much take them for granted, but Honolulu City Council recently proposed a ban on them due to health and environmental concerns. Is it ironic that they come with a happy face? Photo by Nina Wu.

Polystyrene foam takeout boxes are common for plate lunches in Honolulu. We pretty much take them for granted, but Honolulu City Council recently proposed a ban on them due to health and environmental concerns. Is it ironic that they come with a happy face? Photo by Nina Wu.

In my last Green Leaf column, I talked about Honolulu City Council's proposed ban of polystyrene foam takeout boxes (Bill 40). Thanks to those of you that emailed and called in with your suggestions of how to avoid them — bring your own food containers, choose restaurants that offer alternatives and, one caller emphasized, make sure people know not to microwave food in them.

Our unscientific poll of 1,490 readers found that slightly more people (53 percent) do not think polystyrene foam clamshells, commonly used for takeout food, should be banned on Oahu because of environmental concerns, while 47 percent voted yes.

So what's the big deal about polystyrene foam?

Well, let's take a look first of all at styrene, which is found in polystyrene foam. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, styrene is widely used to make plastics and rubber, such as insulation, food containers and carpet backing. It's "reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen." The International Agency for Research on Cancer has also determined that styrene is a possible human carcinogen. Here's a handy fact sheet from the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry).

That doesn't sound too comforting to me, but really, I guess it's a consumer's choice.

In a recent "Island Voices,"  representatives of the Hawaii Food Industry Association, Hawaii Restaurant Association and Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association, say that polystyrene food containers have met stringent FDA standards and that a  ban would only increase the cost of doing business (read increase cost to consumers) when paper products and even compostable products end up at H-Power, anyways.

To be honest with you, most of us are more interested in what we're getting for lunch than what it comes  in. When getting lunch, we consider  what we're getting to eat, and for what price.

But as consumers, we can also make choices, too. I take note when an eatery offers alternatives.

I like to be on the safer side, when possible, considering that close family members of mine have been diagnosed with cancer. I wish I could take it for granted that the FDA makes sure what we eat and drink is safe, but they don't have a very good track record, so far, in my opinion.

The jury's still out on Bisphenol A, according to the FDA. Canada and Europe have banned it in children's products. While it's being debated, U.S. consumers, meanwhile,  are seeking BPA-free children's products and it seems as if retailers are trying to meet that demand. The European Union and Canada go with the "banned until proven innocent" approach while the EPA goes with the innocent until proven harmful approach. Which would you rather take?

I do have sympathy for small businesses and mom-and-pops facing increased costs. After all, you have to serve take-out food in some sort of container. Polystyrene foam almost seems synonymous with our plate lunch culture (read, "Cheap Eats"), but maybe we need to ask ourselves, what's the long-term cost to the environment and health in Hawaii?

Manufacturers of polystyrene foam have launched www.foamfacts.com, claiming there is no harm to microwaving food in foam. But the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit in Washington D.C., recommends microwaving food in glass as a better choice over any plastic containers in its Healthy Home Tips.

At beach cleanups, little pieces of styrene foam floating around are also a pain to pick up, and we definitely don't want them being consumed by marine mammals or ending up in our ocean ecosystem. EPS foam is one of the top five items found during beach cleanups, according to Kahi Pacarro, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Polystyrene (No. 6) can be recycled, but the fact is that it's not being recycled in Hawaii. Only No. 1 and No. 2 plastics are being accepted by the city of Honolulu's blue bins for curbside pickup.

There's a MoveOn petition if you agree that polystyrene foam food containers should be banned in Honolulu.

Honolulu is not the first to introduce a proposed polystyrene ban — Maui County did so in 2009, though it did not pass. The folks in Kilauea, Kauai, have made it clear that's what they want. More than 70 jurisdictions in California already have the ban in place, including Berkeley, Calif. in 1988. New York City may be next, with its ban set to go into effect July 2015.

Here are some businesses that have taken note over the concerns over polystyrene foam:

>> Kudos to McDonald's for deciding to no longer use polystyrene packaging for beverages, which it will replace with paper cups instead. It was, perhaps, a response to consumer concerns. In his testimony on Bill 40, Victor Lim of McDonald's of Hawaii said polystyrene is only in its coffee cups and breakfast platter bases, but these are scheduled to be replaced in the near future.

>> A number of Honolulu restaurants have voluntarily made the switch, including Duke's Waikiki, Hula Grill Waikiki, Morning Brew, La Tour Cafe and others. Snackbox in Kakaako is offering salads and drinks in mason jars, with a discount if you bring it back. If you know of other restaurants that have gone foam-free, let me know. I'll list them here.

>> It's easy enough to bring your own reusable mug or cup to places like Starbucks, but there aren't a lot of folks who would bring their own food takeout containers. At least one place, Sweet Home Waimanalo, offers a discount to those who do.

BYOC

 

Save your bottle caps

May 9th, 2014
By



 

The students at Mililani ‘Ike Elementary collected the most plastic bottle caps, winning a concert by singer and co-founder of the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation, Jack Johnson.

The students at Mililani ‘Ike Elementary collected the most plastic bottle caps, winning a concert by singer and co-founder of the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation, Jack Johnson. Mililani ‘Ike and Mililani Mauka Elementary schools tied for most caps collected, while St. Elizabeth School collected the most caps per capita. Honolulu Pulse photo.

Save your plastic bottle caps.

Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation's first Bottle Cap Collection Challenge netted 21,862 pounds of plastic bottle caps this year, and plans to hold another one in 2015. More than 50 schools, pre-school to high school, public, charter and private, participated in this  year's inaugural challenge. The caps collected have been sent to California to be recycled into new products, including Method's Ocean Plastic bottle and Preserve toothbrush and razor handles.

The contest, which ran from Feb. 1 through March 31, was an initiative to collect and recycle plastic bottle caps that are normally thrown away (they don't belong in the blue bin, in case you didn't know). And if you've been to a recycling redemption center, you find out that you need to remove them before feeding the reverse-vending machines.

Mililani Mauka and Mililani ‘Ike Elementary Schools tied for most caps collected overall, while St. Elizabeth School collected most caps per capita and won a special performance by Jack Johnson.

Congratulations to all of the following schools, who placed tops in the challenge (Top 13 get a waste-free classroom celebration kit with cloth napkins, Preserve cutlery, cups, plates and Method Ocean Plastic dish and hand soap):

1st Place Elementary - St. Elizabeth School - Most Caps Per Capita
2nd Place Elementary - Soto Academy
3rd Place Elementary - Kahala Elementary School

1st Place Middle/Intermediate School - SEEQS: The School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability
2nd Place Middle/Intermediate School - Waialua Intermediate School
3rd Place Middle/Intermediate School - Niu Valley Middle School

1st Place High School - King's Christian Academy
2nd Place High School - King Kekaulike High School
3rd Place High School - Aiea High School

1st Place Pre-School - Aiea Hongwanji Mission Academy
2nd Place Pre-School - Central Union Pre-School

Some inspiring stories and photos from the schools are available on the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation blog page. Students and teachers alike shared their thoughts on the bottle cap challenge. Fifth grade students at Kahala Elementary volunteered to help unscrew caps at Honolulu Zoo. "Even recycling one bottle cap can make a difference," said one student at Niu Valley Middle School.

All proceeds from Jack Johnson's concert at Waikiki Shell on Friday, Aug. 1 during his "From Here to Now To You" Tour! will benefit the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Saturday, May 10.

Great idea! Folks at Reynold's Recycling helped collect plastic bottle caps (which don't go in the reverse vending machines) to help schools participating in this year's Hawaii Bottle Cap Challenge. Photo by Nina Wu.

Great idea! Folks at Reynold's Recycling helped collect plastic bottle caps (which don't go in the reverse vending machines) to help schools participating in the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation's Bottle Cap Challenge. Photo by Nina Wu.

A plastic Easter

April 14th, 2014
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When did Easter become so plastic? Typical store aisle of Easter goodies. Photo by Nina Wu.

When did Easter become so plastic? Typical store aisle of Easter goodies. Photo by Nina Wu.

While wandering the aisles of the store the other day, with shelves full of Easter goodies, it struck me that most of the offerings are now, plastic.

Plastic Easter egg shells, plastic cellophane filler grass, plastic-packaged chocolate Easter bunnies and candies, plastic toys and sometimes, even plastic Easter baskets. When did Easter become so plastic?

Sure, I can see how plastic egg shells come in handy for an Easter egg hunt. Unlike real, boiled eggs, they won't spoil.

But having watched "Bag It The Movie: Is Your Life Too Plastic?' and Plastic Paradise and seeing images of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I know I'm also trying to get away from so many plastics.

Easter egg shells would, in my book, fall under the classification of single-use plastics because they're intended to be used once, then thrown away after the hunt is done. Sure, you can reuse them. But do you have a three-year-old? Chances are after he or she plays with the plastic eggs in the house, you're not going to find the matching halves.

So I'm not purchasing any plastic eggs this year. I know they'll still end up in the house — inevitably, my three-year-old will come home with some from school or community events. If you're vegan, well, then you'll be skipping the eggs.

As for the Easter grass, there are now options for the eco-conscious. Whole Foods Market sells this organic and compostable Easter basket grass by The Vermont Hay Co. Safeway sells "Eco-Pure" plastic grass which claims to be biodegradable. I say — just skip the grass. You don't really need it.

Here are some Easter greening suggestions:

>> Get a non-plastic Easter basket that you can use year-round, and not just for Easter. I opted for a handwoven, fair trade Alaffia mini market basket, woven from savannah grass by a women's cooperative in West Africa. Hopefully we'll use this basket again at farmer's market.

FTR-5-things-basket-3

>> Skip the Easter grass. I'm inclined to say just skip it  because you don't really  need it. If you feel like you must have filler, then try shredded newspaper that you can later recycle.

>> Go back to real eggs and natural dyes. How about going back to using real eggs (preferably local), with natural dyes made from beets, blueberries and green tea? Here are several all-natural Easter Egg dye recipes from "Better Homes & Gardens." You can find plenty of ideas online, including www.lovechildorganics.com/blog. See eggs below. Aren't they  beautiful?

Find the blog "How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally: at www.lovechildorganics.com.blog

Find the blog "How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally: at www.lovechildorganics.com/blog

Bottle Caps

March 10th, 2014
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Students at Lanikai Elementary are participating in Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation's School Bottle Cap Collection Challenge. Looks like they even have a special collection container. Courtesy photo.

Students at Lanikai Elementary are participating in Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation's School Bottle Cap Collection Challenge. Looks like they even have a special collection container. Courtesy photo.

I've had a bag full of bottle caps for some time. I know the city doesn't take them for recycling in the blue bin (only No. 1 and No. 2) in Honolulu. So, honestly, I was hoping to recycle them somewhere convenient.

And now that opportunity is here, with the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation's first Hawaii School Bottle Cap Collection Challenge. Visit kokuahawaiifoundation.org/bottlecapchallenge to find a list of participating schools.

Each participating school collects plastic bottle caps from the community and turns them in by March 31. Schools will submit a collection report online and also document the process with photos, videos and blogs.

The school that collects the most caps for recycling wins a special performance by musician Jack Johnson (the foundation’s co-founder).

The challenge, which started Feb. 1, is open to all Hawaii schools, from pre-school to high school. More than 50 schools, so far, are participating, mostly from Oahu, but also from Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. New schools are still welcome to register.

The foundation partnered with Method and Preserve to send the plastic caps to California, where they will be recycled into new products, including Method’s Ocean Plastic bottle and Preserve’s cutlery, plates and cups.

At Kokua’s beach cleanups over the year, volunteers have collected more than 25,000 pounds of waste, including thousands of discarded plastic bottle caps.

Can your cap be recycled?

The Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation has a collection guide. Look for the No. 5 inside the triangular recycling symbol, which stands for a rigid plastic called polypropylene.

These usually include caps that twist on to shampoo, water, soda, milk and other beverage bottles, as well as vitamin and medicine cap lids, the flip top caps on ketchup and mayonnaise, and peanut butter jar lids.

The recycling challenge is not accepting plastic pumps with metal springs, margarine tub lids or metal lids.

Happy recycling!

Recyclingcaps

 

The sorting line

February 23rd, 2014
By



 

A recent visit to RRR Recycling at Campbell Industrial Park was really eye-opening.

It was exciting to see where all our curbside pickup recyclables go — and how they're sorted, baled and then shipped out to be remade into new products. I mean, this is truly recycling in action!

It's a large, dirty and noisy operation — and fast-paced. That conveyer belt goes pretty fast in the beginning. Workers are snatching out plastic bags and items that don't belong from left and right. I saw sneakers, phonebooks and hard-cover books go by (none belong in your blue bin).

Kudos to the 14 hard-working employees who sort this stuff seven days a week.

There are huge mountains of cardboard spilling on to the floor (I'm glad it gets recycled). Huge mounds of newspaper piled on a floor, and on the other side of the sorting line, piles of plastics, glass and aluminum.

The plastics are sorted by No. 1 and No. 2. Then the No. 2 plastics are sorted according to color or white because, apparently, once the color has been added in, the color can't be removed.

Recycling trucks collect the blue bins from more than 150 routes, bringing in an estimated 20,000 tons of recyclable materials a year. These recyclables actually bring the city and county of Honolulu $1.5 million in net revenue, according to Suzanne Jones, assistant chief for the refuse division.

But they could potentially bring in more, if people understood more of what can go in the blue bins.

People seem to understand newspapers go in there (yeah!) plus cardboard (only the corrugated kind). More plastics other than plastic water bottles and beverage containers (which some like to redeem for 5-cents apiece) can go in there, including plastic bottles for shampoo, body wash, vitamins and peanut butter. Glass jars. Milk containers. Wine bottles.

What's cool about all this is that recyclables are also diverted from our landfill.

"Back before the program started, if you really think about it, all of this was going to the landfill," said Manasseh Santos, who works on the sorting line. "With us recycling now, it'l save landfill space. It's a good thing all the way around."

To learn more, visit opala.org, which has 30-second video clips and pretty extensive information about recycling. Look out for my post about the blue bin tomorrow.

Newspapers baled and ready to be shipped to China for recycling.

Newspapers baled and ready to be shipped to China for recycling.

The BYOB movement

January 13th, 2014
By



 

Plastic bag caught in the fence near Kakaako Waterfront Park. Photo by Nina Wu.

Plastic bag caught in the fence near Kakaako Waterfront Park. Photo by Nina Wu.

I think it's happening.

Despite sluggishness, and resistance, I detect a BYOB —  bring your own bag — movement gaining momentum in Hawaii. Starting Friday, Hawaii county joins Maui and Kauai counties in officially banning conventional, plastic carryout bags.

Honolulu, the most populated of the isles, should have been at the forefront, but instead will be the last to join the ban, which takes effect in July 2015 (despite the law being signed by former Mayor Peter Carlisle in 2012). Hawaii, one of the states most vulnerable to the damaging effects of plastic in our oceans, should have been at the forefront of the plastic bag ban, as well.

But let's not focus on what should have been. Let's focus on the here and now.

Here, in Honolulu, you can take steps to reduce plastic bags, now, by using reusable bags. It's low-cost, even no-cost (because you don't have to go out and buy reusable bags, though plenty are available) and requires just a little bit of effort. I notice more people in the checkout line bringing their own bags. I no longer get my groceries automatically swept into a plastic bag when I bring my own bags (plus bringing your own bag is an option at self checkout). And at some stores, they actually say, "Thanks for bringing a bag!"

It's also a matter of wanting to reduce the use of plastic bags, because I imagine some people are actually hoarding them in preparation for the day when stores will no longer be giving them out at checkout.

Here are the top three excuses:

1. I FORGOT MY BAGS. One way to avoid this is to keep them in the car, or whatever means of transportation you have to the grocery store. You can also keep a small one (foldable in a pouch, like chicobag, envirosax, etc.) in your purse or backpack, handy for a quick run to the store. Or just use your backpack. Speaking of bags, I've found, from a practical point of view — that the large, square-bottomed and insulated ones work best. Trader Joe bags have also been great, flat on the bottom and durable. I've been bringing my own bags to the grocery store consistently over the years, and trying to remember to bring them to places like Long's Drugs and other retail outlets, too. Some boutiques are also starting to hand over purchases in reusable bags — a trend I like.

2. THERE AREN'T ENOUGH BAGS. Right. So get 15 to 20 reusable bags or more, if you need to, and go for the large and sturdy ones. You can also use beach totes, backpacks and baskets. If you're just heading from the store straight to your car with a shopping cart, you don't really need a double plastic bag to carry that six-pack of Coke or gallon of milk.  Follow Costco's lead and reuse an empty cardboard box.

3. I REUSE THE BAGS AT HOME. Sure, reuse is one of the three R's. But reduce comes before reuse. I understand. I use them to line my trash cans, too. I end up getting takeout lunch handed to me in a plastic bag. There are alternatives. I have a dog, too, but I don't typically use grocery bags to pick up poop – preferring reused bread bags, newspaper bags and Biobags instead. This is a tough one, and I'll let you know if I find a good alternative.

I still need to work on it, myself. But we can all try a little more.

I think charging a fee for paper bags is a good idea, since they cost more to produce and aren't necessarily any better for the environment. Seattle has done just that. The plastic bags that stores give out aren't necessarily free, either, but come with a cost that's probably calculated in overhead and passed on to the consumer. The Sierra Club cited a study in Seattle that determined a net cost of about $121 per ton of plastic bags that end up in the landfill annually. The cost to the environment is even higher.

Come on. No more excuses. You can bring your own bags to the store, some of the time or all of the time, even before the law kicks in next year.