Steel Company Helps Keep Ocean Clean

Jim Banigan
Jim Banigan

KAPOLEI (KHNL) -- A local steel recycling company helps keep the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands clean. It's a unique partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, and it's part conservation and part preservation of ocean life.

Tons of fishing nets like this wind up on the ocean floor. They end up killing coral, fish and other living creatures. But thanks to this unique partnership, nets get collected in a green bin at Pier 38, to be taken away and burned.

Schnitzer Steel is the largest steel recycling facility in the state. It's also a leader in preserving our ocean life.

"Started as a little tiny concept and grew into a big program like this," said Jim Banigan, Schnitzer's general manager. "We're very proud of it."

NOAA divers collect old fishing nets abandoned by fishermen at Papahanaumokuakea. They're put into bins, and brought to Schnitzer, where they're cut into smaller pieces, and then taken to Oahu's H-Power to be burned.

"It's something we as a company are proud of, everyone, and it's our way of contributing," said Banigan. "We do it for free. It costs us money to do this, but it's our way of giving back a little and trying to help out, you know."

Otherwise this mountain of nets would end up at the landfill and stay there for 300 years since they don't biodegrade. So far, Schnitzer has diverted 800,000 pounds of nets.

"We never in our wildest dreams figured this would happen," said Banigan. "As a matter of fact, we won two environmental awards because of this."

Banigan says protecting our earth and sea is especially important for an island state like Hawaii.

"If everybody does their little part, it blossoms into a bigger program and the entire ecosystem benefits from it," he said. "That's what it's all about: giving back."

Giving back and keeping our blue ocean .... green.

A ship leaves a week from today to collect more nets at Papahanaumokuakea. NOAA divers will bring them back, and the whole process starts all over again.