A New Recycling Program Turns Trash Into Usable Metal

Richard Kahalewai
Richard Kahalewai

KAPOLEI (KHNL) - Oahu residents produce about 1.5 million tons of waste each year.

Now an innovative project could greatly reduce trash in our landfills, while helping the environment.

Call it a "trash magnet." An oversized magnet hanging from a bulldozer is the new weapon against waste. It separates metal debris from endless mounds of trash.

"About five to six hundred tons a day," said Richard Kahalewai. "That's on the slow days."

Kahalewai operates the magnet. He said all sorts of stuff end up at the landfill.

"Everything in the household, everything outdoors, the works," said Kahalewai. "Everything you can think of is out there."

Instead of taking up valuable landfill space, metal debris end up in oversized blue bins, where they'll be processed and recycled. Each bin holds up to eight tons of metal.

Kahalewai is happy doing his part to save the environment.

"It makes me feel good," he said. "It's actually saving landfill space which is what we need right now."

This metal recycling pilot program will run through the end of June, but officials say it could expand beyond Hawaii.

"They're looking at this as possibly something that Waste Management could do around the country," said Russell Nanod, community affairs manager for Waste Management.

Kahalewai has a young daughter. He hopes doing his part could mean a cleaner aina for her and her generation. He encourages others to follow his lead.

"Don't throw it out the window," he said. "Don't throw it on the side of the road. Recycle everything. It makes a big part in the landfill, and the whole community, and the whole land. Everything."

Once scrap metals get processed, they go to China, where they end up as sheet metal, rebar, and other parts. Then recycled metal will eventually end up on cars, ships, and even buildings. In the U.S., steel recycling saves enough energy to power about 18 million homes each year, versus manufacturing brand new products.