Tons of glass not being recycled, problem could get worse

A hundred tons a week of glass suddenly can not be recycled, heads towards the trash heap instead.

It’s a problem Always Investigating uncovered. HON2 learned recycling other containers could also be facing a similar fate. So what’s the solution?

Recyclers can’t afford the cost of recycling glass without the city and state chipping in to help, and those funds have run just too low.

But the cost of recycling anything is getting tougher to cover because it has to be shipped away.

A new on-island manufacturing plant could change all that for the better.

You’ve bought it. You’ve downed it. Now you toss it, hopefully in a recycling bin.

But what happens next isn’t as simple as it seems.

About 250 million out of the 350 million plastic bottles used in Hawaii every year end up at a recycling center — a conduit to places on the Mainland or in Asia that can turn it into something else again. Recyclers front that cost before getting any cost offset from the state. And just like the low reimbursement rates coupled with soaring shipping costs crippled glass recycling, even lighter products like plastic are feeling the shipping-cost pinch.

“I look out there and I see bundles of PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) plastic bottles, and I’ve seen them sit there as long as 6-8 months at a time, so they’re not being moved because of the cost structure of moving the products out,” Pacific Allied Products, President Bernie Coleman said.

That gave this Kapolei bottle maker an idea — what if those old containers could become new again right here, without going thousands of miles away just to come right back as your favorite drinkholder?

KHON2 walked through every step as bottles were born and filled at a plant where they hope to add yet another 10 million dollar machine.

They want to clean and chop old bottles plastic into beads just like resin beads. That’s the beginning of the forms that get blown up into the bottles that get filled up to quench your thirst.

“It would be great to have a complete closed loop system, you process the bottles, you fill them with water, you send them out, they come back you process them again — doesn’t go into the waste stream, doesn’t go into the landfill,” said Coleman

He’s been working with the state and bottle redemption centers on just how to go about it.

“The state controls who get the recycled product, and we’d have to work with these recycle locations to get the feedstock, to make sure we can get enough of the product to actually set up the manufacturing facility,” said Coleman.

We checked with the state on what hoops would have to be jumped through..

“I don’t believe they’re required to have an air permit, obviously they’ll be required to have a solid waste permit because they’ll be collecting baled containers of plastic and it’s going to be stored somewhere, so we want to make sure they’re properly stored,” State Department of Health Chief, Solid and Hazardous Waster Branch Steven Chang said.

Redemption centers would be able to cash in faster by selling him the bottles instead of the far-away recyclers, submit for their state subsidies sooner, and skip the shipping costs

“Does anybody lose in this scenario?” asked KHON

“The people who ship bottled water to Hawaii probably that would be the main issue because this would create the opportunity where we can produce the bottles locally, we can bottle the water locally as opposed to importing bottled water from California or New York or wherever they come from,” answered Chang.

Meanwhile the state is also taking proposals for another few weeks on studying what to do with glass containers — still having to be mostly thrown away and not recycled on Oahu until the fund is replenished to subsidize the cost.

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