Hawai’i is an island state — there’s only so much land to use, no matter the purpose. And that includes rubbish. A contest sponsored by Kaua‘i County and the state Department of Health is teaching the island’s keiki that not all waste needs to be thrown away.
In fact, by participating this year, students have a chance to win an outdoor adventure they might not be able to experience otherwise.
The county Department of Public Works Solid Waste Division and the DOH for the third year are encouraging public, private and home school students to take part in the Electronic Waste Recycling Contest, which runs through March 31. Their teachers, family and friends also can participate.
“The main objective of the contest is to promote e-waste recycling on Kaua‘i,” Shantelle Rego, project manager with the Solid Waste Division, told Kaua‘i Now in an email, adding a main driver of awareness and change is youth involvement, including in programs like the e-waste recycling contest. “They’re usually more of an influence on their parents’ actions and choices when it comes to altruistic endeavors such as sustainability and environmental issues.”
Rego said the contest aims to teach students where to recycle, what to recycle and how to recycle e-waste on Kaua‘i.
“Once you do it and you see how easy it is, maybe more folks will make an effort to continue recycling their e-waste,” she said.
Michael Burke, the solid waste management coordinator for the DOH, agreed.
“Our expectation is that students learn that it’s not hard to recycle, and that it’s worth it to help divert their old electronics from the waste stream,” Burke told Kaua‘i Now in an email.
To participate, students fill out e-waste contest tickets for each e-waste drop off. Tickets can be downloaded from the county website and ask for the student’s contact information, including their school and teacher. Families can drop off one ticket per visit and there is no limit to how many times someone can drop off items.
The types of electronic waste that can be recycled include computers and computer accessories; TV’s; audio/video equipment, but no speakers; and cellphones, among others. Appliances such as vacuums, microwaves and toaster ovens are not considered e-waste.
Electronic waste can be dropped off from 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the Puhi Metals Recycling Facility located at 3951 Puhi Road in Līhu‘e. Puhi Metals staff will sign the tickets and hold them until the contest ends.
Winners will be chosen in a random drawing in April and notified thereafter. Prizes this year include outdoor adventures such as tubing and ziplining at Kaua‘i Backyard Adventures, horseback riding at CJM Stables, tours to swim near Ni‘ihau with Holoholo Charters and many more.
“We also have a couple special prizes for preschool age students that cannot participate in many of the prize packages we’re offering,” Rego said. “These include $400 in gift cards from Fun Factory or a new 10.2-inch Apple iPad.”
In 2019, the county had a class competition, where students from different classes turned in electronic waste. About 50 winners were selected that year from Waimea Canyon Middle School, Kalāheo Elementary and ‘Ele‘ele Elementary.
Tactics changed in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Rego said the county coordinated a school e-waste pickup program from various schools around the island. Students weren’t involved, but the county was able to transport hundreds of items from 15 schools for free recycling.
“We brought the students back in in 2021,” she said. “There were six student winners and five teacher winners.”
There also were hundreds of entries, and Rego expects there will be hundreds again this year.
She estimated that the Electronic Waste Recycling Contest has brought in about 5-10 tons or so — hundreds to thousands of individual items — since it began. The county recycles about 15 tons of e-waste per month through its scrap metal recycling contract with Resource Recovery Solutions, which operates the Puhi Metals Recycling Facility.
Burke said that the DOH supports the state’s four counties to implement electronic waste recycling programs. Outreach and education — such as the e-waste recycling contest — are a cornerstone for increasing participation in recycling.
“Which is why DOH supports the County of Kaua‘i’s efforts,” he said.
He said the department’s solid waste management program is dedicated to reducing the impacts of solid waste throughout the state, including electronic waste.
“Because we live on an island, we can’t landfill our trash forever,” Burke said. “Promoting electronic waste recycling is something that we support wholeheartedly, and the entire state can benefit if we each do our part to keep as much waste out of our landfills as possible.
Anyone with questions about the contest or recycling electronic waste in general can contact Rego at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 241-4336.