MILILANI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Most people assume that when they pay the recycling fee for a glass bottle, the bottle winds up getting turned into a new bottle and is not put into the ground.
But Hawaii News Now has learned that more than 14,000 tons of crushed glass wound up in a Mililani farm -- even though the city paid more than a million dollars to process it for recycling.
"We should not be paying HI5 if in fact it's destined to be dumped in the ground ... The taxpayers and the consumers should not be footing the bill," said environmental activist Carroll Cox.
"I would describe it as corporate welfare nothing more, or nothing less."
News of this large glass farm comes as recycling officials are struggling with worldwide glut of recycled glass.
Ten years ago, recyclers earned about $500 per container to ship the glass to the mainland. Now they're getting about $200 per container, said Steven Chang, program manager for the state Health Department's Solid & Hazardous Waste Branch.
Over the same period, the cost of shipping that material has soared from about $800 per 40-foot container to about $2,400, he said. Those soaring costs are forcing recyclers to rethink what how they go about recycling glass.
Sandwich Isles Communications -- which owns the five-acre property at 320 Kamehameha Highway -- thinks it has a solution to that problem. Instead of shipping the glass to the mainland, it mixes it with soil to improve drainage and prevent root rot for the Citron trees that it grows on the property.
According to state and city records, the crushed glass was trucked to the farm from 2005 to 2008 by Honolulu Recovery System, which received $1.03 million from the city's advance disposal fee program.
After it initially raised questions about the use, the city now considers it a proper form of recycling. Crushed glass is now used for asphalt in city streets and in building materials.