For a good many years, the Big Island has had a fairly standard recycling program. Glass, cardboard, paper, aluminum and other metals, and many types of plastic were collected for recycling.
Last week, the plastic and paper part of that program was tossed into the trash. The reason, according to officials, is that the market for those kinds of materials has gone in the tank. China stopped buying those materials last year. Since then, other countries in that business have been overwhelmed and shut up shop.
But the economics of the program weren’t the only problem. A lot of those recyclable products couldn’t actually be recycled because they had so much trash mixed in with them they were essentially garbage. People didn’t pay attention to what they could and couldn’t recycle and didn’t put the appropriate, clean materials in the proper place. ‘Recycling’ used pizza boxes with bits of three cheese pizza stuck all over them didn’t help, and I’ve seen plenty of things like that being recycled.
What will happen now is that more stuff will end up in the trash and that’s still a problem. The landfill on the east side of the island closed this year and now all trash from that side is trucked to the west side landfill. At some point that will become full. And then what. It’s not a situation that’s likely to get better any time soon.