The process to recycle paper from Hawai‘i County is complex. Hawai‘i Island has a low population density spread over a vast area which makes collecting recyclables costly and resource intensive. Transportation costs are high because Hawai‘i Island is over 3,000 miles from the closest paper manufacturing plant.
Taking into consideration factors such as collection cost, market prices for recycled materials, and importantly greenhouse gas emissions, at this time, it is less environmentally harmful to landfill most types of paper.
The Department of Environmental Management is conducting a Life Cycle Assessment of all of our current and potential recycling programs to make the best management decisions based on science. Recycling paper is a good thing, however if the greenhouse gas emissions contribute more than are saved in our situation, it is not environmentally sound. We look forward to sharing the results with Island residents once the study is complete.
We encourage people to look to the EPA’s Solid Waste Hierarchy which encourages everyone to Reduce and Reuse our materials prior to Recycling. https://www.epa.gov/smm/sustainable-materials-management-non-hazardous-materials-and-waste-management-hierarchy