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Dream Green Team

Talking trash isn’t usually a good thing, but a small team in Kalaupapa is changing the way people think about rubbish with their award winning solid waste management program. The Kalaupapa National Historical Park (KNHP) Green Team, comprised of five local Molokai employees, has received national recognition for the work they’re doing to make the peninsula a statewide model of waste management.

The team — Arthur Ainoa, Joseph Kahee, Brennan Lee-Namakaeha, Pa`oneakai Lee-Namakaeha, and Ryan Mahiai — has recently been named one of seven recipients of the National Park Service’s 2013 Environmental Achievement awards. The award recognizes their accomplishment of drastically reducing the peninsula’s solid waste through recycling, composting, conserving and reusing.

“The Green Team at Kalaupapa National Historical Park developed and implemented a solid waste management program that has set the solid waste management standard for the State of Hawaii,” stated an NPS press release.

A trash diversion rate is the amount of waste recycled or composted instead of being sent to a landfill. With direction from the Green Team, the park’s estimated municipal trash diversion rate for fiscal year 2012 was at 84 percent.

“It feels great to finally receive recognition for our efforts in sustainability,” said team member Pa`one Lee-Namakaeha. “Even though we are a small national park, the solid waste division has been making giant leaps in our recycling and composting practices.”

In previous years, about 79 percent of the waste generated in Kalaupapa was disposed of into an on-site landfill, with the remaining 21 percent shipped out on an annual barge to Honolulu for recycling. But when the landfill closed in 2010, the Green Team produced a solid waste management system that has changed the way the small peninsula thinks about rubbish.

Now, in 2012 alone, the Green Team — with the support of the Kalaupapa community — recycled 203,163 pounds of materials including cans, plastics, cardboard, glass, electronics, ink toner/cartridges, mixed paper, used motor oil, clothing, furniture, tires and scrap metal. They composted 41,343 pounds of food waste, green waste, egg cartons and shredded paper to produce compost. They properly disposed of 7,200 pounds of hazardous materials and shipped out 23 pieces of equipment or vehicles as scrap metal. The team also accepted and processed 37,755 pounds of household trash that’s sent to Oahu to be converted from waste to energy.

In late 2008, KNHP began implementing a recycling program as part of their Integrated Solid Waste Alternatives Program. Since the establishment of a state-permitted recycling center in Kalaupapa in 2009, the program has grown and is in the process of becoming a permitted transfer station, which allows staff to process, store and dispose of universal waste such as batteries, pesticides, light bulbs and hazardous waste.

The award comes as welcome recognition for the Green Team’s hard work over the past several years.

“It feels great to know that we are recognized for our work and accomplishments, and that every year we apply ourselves to our commitment is one year closer to cleaning Kalaupapa,” said team member Arthur Ainoa. “For me it feels great having grandchildren who are the generation that will be affected by our efforts… We are an example of what any community can do.”

As far as implementing some of the same initiatives on topside Molokai, team member Brennan Lee-Namakaeha said “you just have to put time and effort into it.”
“People from topside should learn and recycle better,” added Joe Kahee.

Despite the satisfaction of recognition, the five members of the Green Team say the biggest rewards are keeping Kalaupapa clean, protecting the aina, seeing sustainability in action and watching the waste they’ve processed during the year getting loaded onto the barge every year.
And they’re not resting on their laurels.

“By 2015, I hope to have a waste diversion rate of 100 percent here in Kalaupapa,” said Pa`one Lee-Namakaeha. “That would be phenomenal if we can accomplish that task and I believe it is possible since our community shares our goals in keeping Kalaupapa beautiful.”


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