We are all aware of the ongoing debate over Oahu's trash and where to put it. This will most likely be a controversial and difficult issue for many more years for us, as inhabitants on a small island with limited options for our rubbish. In 2003 when I was a Honolulu City Councilman representing the Ewa, Kapolei, and the Waianae Coast I hosted a meeting for the residents of Ko Olina to air their frustrations about the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill that is across the highway from their homes. One of the residents made a video to share with us what they experience living in such close proximity to Oahu's opala. The video, shot on a windy day, showed hundreds (if not more) plastic shopping bags flying over the homes in Ko Olina. The bags were coming from the landfill. Some of them ended up stuck in trees or fences in that neighborhood but most of them went directly into the ocean. The airborne white bags resembled a flock of seabirds. The Ko Olina residents told me that this was a very common siting.
If you haven't considered the serious impacts of plastic bags and all kinds of plastics on our marine life, I urge you to read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mass of discarded plastic that is now twice the size of the state of Texas. This mess is an embarrassing eyesore and, most tragically, sea life of all kinds are dying after becoming entangled or ingesting it.
In order to stop contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch we can:
Recycle as much of our rubbish as possible and get a little pocket change for our troubles; you can find out how to recycle the caps from plastic drink bottles by visiting Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii - B.E.A.C.H.
Choose to purchase items with less wasteful packaging; buy items in bulk as much as possible and avoid things that are individually wrapped.
Compost fruit and vegetable food scraps; you can significantly and easily reduce your trash production and make your own soil. In fact one statistic says that an average person creates 1,500 pounds of rubbish a year but someone who composts only produces 375 pounds of rubbish! See Build a Compost and Home Composting: Making Gold from Kitchen Scraps for composting information.
Stop using and throwing away plastic bags by always carrying reusable bags when shopping. Check out ReusableBags.com to watch the rapidly increasing number of plastic bags consumed this year. As of this writing there are over 346 billion. I know it is challenging to remember your reusable bags when you go to the store but I have found it helps to put your shopping list, your coupons, your wallet or even your car keys inside your reusable bags to ensure that you'll remember them when going into the store. You can also find great reusable bags that fold up and fit inside your pocket or purse.
This isn't meant as a criticism of the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill or the plastic industry but merely a call to all residents to do their part to make sure their rubbish isn't ending up in our ocean, polluting any other part of our 'aina, and that we are all reducing our trash production as much as possible. With less opala littering our precious land and environment, we can all (including our wildlife) be healthier. Less pollution and rubbish will reduce the amount of government funds needed to deal with our waste, ultimately lowering taxes (we hope!).