In 2003, Hawai‘i targeted 50% diversion by 2008 and 80% by 2013, but the county had only hit 36% diversion by 2011. Most residents and businesses self-haul their discards to landfills or transfer stations where materials can be separated for recycling. The county was running out of space at its landfills and was shipping recycled materials off the island for processing.
Hawai’i County’s Zero Waste philosophy promotes the highest and best use of materials to eliminate waste and pollution. The philosophy emphasizes a closed-loop system of production and consumption regarding solid waste management.
The County resolved to incorporate this Zero Waste philosophy into its Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan. Hawai’i recognized Zero Waste as a strategy to reach its over-arching goal of each generation leaving a reduced ecological footprint on the earth.
In 2009 a Zero Waste Implementation Plan was produced for the county with a focus on using recycling to help economic sustainability. Recovered materials could be kept in productive use on the island and used to create jobs and local wealth instead of being shipped off island and replaced with new imports.
The plan estimated more than 500 jobs would be created by achieving an 80% recycling rate and nearly $11 million in lost revenues was buried each year in Hawai’i’s landfills. The plan called for: