Where Does All That Styrofoam Go?

Kurt Halverson
Kurt Halverson
Rodney Smith
Rodney Smith

by Leland Kim

KAPOLEI (KHNL) -- Styrofoam is both popular and, in some circles, considered to be an environmental scourge.

Here in Hawai'I, Styrofoam containers fill rubbish cans due to the popularity of plate lunches, but we also enjoy a smart way of disposing of them.

During a typical lunch rush in Hawai'i, you'll find people hungry for plate lunches.

"Oh, yeah. I love plate lunches," said Kevin McGuire, a plate lunch fan from the North Shore.

"It's delicious," said Tito Sene, a plate lunch fan who lives in Kane'ohe.

"I'll eat them three times or more if I can," said Kurt Halverson, a Honolulu plate lunch fan.

After a hearty meal, used plates end up in trash cans.

After trucks haul the trash away, they end up at H-Power. But the process doesn't stop there.

About 2,000 tons of trash gets processed every day.

"As it comes to us, it goes through some big flailing hammers that kind of break things up," said Rodney Smith, a facility business manager with Honolulu Resource Recovery Venture. "And we send over magnets and we pull out about 75 percent of the metal that we recycle on the front end."

Then the trash goes through a conveyor belt and gets burned. The heat makes steam.

"That steam goes into a turbine, and runs a generator, and that make about 45, 46 megawatts of power for Hawaiian Electric to use," said Smith.

That means usable energy.

"And they can power about 40- to 45,000 homes by using that power," said Smith.

Plate lunch lovers see this as a mandate.

"We need to eat more plate lunches," said Halverson.

Eating an island favorite could actually help power your home.

H-Power said it processes more than 500 tons of plate lunches and other Styrofoam goods every single day.