hawaiian garbage, literally

Indians to U.S.: Take Out Trash – Washington State Tribe Sues to Keep Hawaiian Garbage Off Ancestral Lands” demonstrates our seeming disregard for the environment. Rather than find a long-term solution that benefits the planet and future generations, we prefer the less diligent response of wanting to hand it off to someonelse. Just as this particular dilemma isn’t new, neither is the solution. But will we ever resolve it once and for all?

The Yakama Indian tribe sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture to halt “shipment of municipal waste from Honolulu to a private landfill by the Columbia River.” A temporary restraining order by a federal court in Spokane on 7/29 prohibited the first shipment. Judge Edward Shea concurred with the Indians that the waste posed a potential threat to their use of neighboring land in the preservation of their cultural heritage. “In their complaint…the Yakama cited fear of invasive plant species from Hawaii, as well as microbes, insects and other pests that could attach themselves to the trash cargo and contaminate Yakama lands.” The 60-page diatribe went on to say that “future fishing stocks” would be threatened and that ” ‘Yakima citizens gather huckleberries and chokecherries and roots like lammush and bitter-root and pick various flowers and plants from the lands surrounding the Landfill–all for use as food or medicine,’…”

Beginning in 2004 landfills on the mainland offered to accommodate municipal waste from Honolulu, strapped for landfill. Eventually settling upon a site in Klickitat County, Washington “along the Columbia River dividing Washington from Oregon”, Hawaiian Waste Systems began “bailing tons of trash in anticipation of the 2,600-mile voyage from Hawaii. From the port of Longview, Wash., the bales of trash were to be taken by rail to a landfill in Roosevelt. While that route skirts the 1.4-million acre Yakama reservation, it would pass through the ‘ceded area’ the Yakama claim as a result of an 1855 peace treaty ending hostilities between the tribe and the federal government.” Rather than concoct a solution that expends so much time, effort and money in its logistical maneuvering, wouldn’t it make better sense to apply as much, or more, man hours and dollars in delineating a permanent resolution, like recycling?

Where we live in Washington State, we are required to recycle into jumbo bins, all plastics coded #1 and #2, all glass, and paper, as well as food garbage and yard waste designated for composting. What’s left that can’t be recycled is emptied into a small trash can. Our daughter is also required to recycle where she lives, as I’m sure people in other states are forced to do as well. Why then is Hawaii still exempt?

It’s hard to imagine that one of the loveliest states in the Union sends its ugly garbage hither and yon, in search of a dumping ground. It is  difficult to justify preserving the land of one native people who, consciously or unconsciously, irretrievably destroy the land of another native people. The Law requires travelers between the islands and  elsewhere, declare the transportation of fresh foods and plants. The concern, of course, being the infiltration of insects and other life forms which might destroy native species and their habitats. Shouldn’t the same consideration extend to the Yakama and their native species and their environs? 

Western civilization seems adept at pondering deeply the preservation of our capitalist society, but gives so little thought to the preservation and prosperity of the earth and its natural resources. Are we a narcissistic people, only concerned with ourselves and our needs? Is it inevitable that unless we change our ways, we may ultimately “pull the plug” on ourselves?

here’s hoping we don’t…hugmamma.

4 thoughts on “hawaiian garbage, literally

  1. Very glad you enlightened me about Hawaii’s recycling program. Will have to pass the information along to visitors we’ve hosted from Honolulu. Viewed the website shown in your comment and am very impressed. Do you work for the ENV, the Department of Environmental Services? The website delineates all aspects of the program in much detail, so that no one should have any doubts about procedures.

    I notice that refuse and recycling centers are in the outlying communities of Oahu: Ewa, Laie, Wahiawa, Waianae, Waimanalo, Waipahu, Kawailoa, and Kapaa. Are there any in Honolulu for the convenience of those citizens, or do they need to travel out into the suburbs if they want to dispose of more items than are collected?

    I watched the video with the very attractive, young lady and children. One boy spoke of Kakaako Park having once been a landfill, to which the other boy cringed thinking of picnicking on trash. He felt it better if it were shipped to Las Vegas and later, into outer space. The first boy explained that “Nobody wants trash in their backyard.” Mention was also made that Honolulu stands out against mainland communities when it comes to recycling. They went on to speak at length about the islands reaping the benefits of trash in the harnessing of energy and compost, that a certain amount of “opala” is equivalent to one barrel of oil. They indicated that islanders reap the monetary benefits of fuel and fossil. Much was said about “H-power” which produces enough energy for 40,000 homes across Oahu. Essentially, burning trash equals electricity. And finally, reducing trash to ashes takes up 10% of the space of a landfill.

    All that was said on the video made good practice, and good sense. I just wondered then why 20,000 tons of Honolulu Municipal waste is looking for a home on the mainland? Seems like they’re giving away the benefits of which they spoke so convincingly in the video. Again…

    Just wondering…hugmamma.


  2. Did not include an important detail re the outcome. Evidently the USDA withdrew its permission for the transport of garbage by Hawaiian Waste Systems. Its president, Mike Chutz, is not in favor of a lengthy litigation so is looking at other alternatives for the 20,000 tons of municipal waste that been stored in a Honolulu industrial park since October.

    Meanwhile the Yakama will pursue their case against the USDA “in part to establish clearer guidelines on what kind of commercial activities will be authorized by federal regulators in the future.”

    problem unresolved…hugmamma.


  3. After posting my views on this article, my husband and I discussed the matter briefly. It’s certain that Honolulu has no recycling program in place, for visitors to our home are not familiar with the process. They have expressed a desire that one be initiated, and I know they would gladly participate.

    Whether or not the other islands recycle is not discussed in the article, so I can’t speak to their situation. Perhaps their landfills are not yet maxed out. Whatever their present position, I would hope recycling is in their future.

    The people of Hawaii may not be at fault, but perhaps they can lobby for change on behalf of themselves, and that of the global environment. With everyone’s participation, perhaps we can make a difference.

    hope so…hugmamma.


hugs for sharing some brief thoughts...and keeping them positive

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