Flying isn’t my best skillset – today’s proof is written with love… Mahalo Hawaiian Airlines

There are things that happen on the adventure and then there are things that happen and nothing can be done.  The last 24 hours is a perfect example of this.  It all started last night, when I was sitting down to book check in to my flight to leave on the next leg of my flight…. and then it happens – I realize that my inter island flight was booked 24 hours to soon and now I have to get a new ticket.  In a panic, I call the Hawaiian Airlines help desk and ask to speak to a person.  Unfortunately, during my first call, I got disconnected.  After taking a few to slow down mentally, I try again.

This time I speak to a travel agent and explain my circumstances, including the fact that i have an international connecting flight that departs at 4:30 pm.  We examine prices and determine that with a ticket change and the balance difference, my First Class flight will be about $100 more.  Since this was my mistake, I accept responsibility and pay for a new ticket; I mean it’s not like I could say no – I’m on a mission here!  After a happy dance and a few waves of anxiety I hurriedly process my check in using cut and paste features amid the packing and re positioning of my goods in their various bags.  Oh the happy life for me…

Until the good byes and thank you’s are complete and I’m all alone at the Lihue Airport… waiting standby to leave the island on a beautiful Friday morning because all flights are booked solid.  I don’t know about waiting for a standby fight when you’re on an island, headed to another island – to catch the only fight to another island where flights are only every few days…  but I’m grateful to be on the inside, and to be able to get past security into the terminal situation.  Then at least I can ask more questions and see what options might be available to me…

And true their promise, the staff at Hawaiian Airlines share the Aloha spirit with me today, even if it came at a price.  After getting to my gate I met Gabriel, a true Aloha Ambassador!  She explained to me that all flights were booked all morning and the likelihood of getting to Pago Pago today was kind of slim… as she continued to search her mighty computer Gabriel found one last ray oh hope for me – a seat became open on an island hopping plane!  But wait, there’s always bad news with these things, another change fee!  With apologies she explained the situation and what would be required of me.  Why didn’t my original ticket fly on the 11th?  I still don’t know… I’m even more baffled by the idea that I explained my situation to the gal on the phone last night and I still ended up with an inter island ticket that departed after my international flight.  Gabriel did go out of her way for me though, she made sure that my bags didn’t get sent to baggage claim on the other side of security.  They will be waiting for me in American Samoa and I’ll have time to breathe and meditate on gratitude in the mean time.  The mission of cleaning up messes made by others will be filled with opposition and hurdles.  Today I have gratitude for many things, including that this will work out in the end.  Some lessons come at a bigger price than others, today’s cost me about $175, but in a take action world – money always greases the wheels it seems.  So does kindness and humility.  Had I been rude, panicky, or otherwise unkind – things may not have turned out the same, and I could have been stuck on an island on the otherside of the world, not able to get where I needed to be.
And who knows better than me how times of trial and fire-  purify, cleanse and awaken.
So for now, this is my story on this leg of the adventure…

What I know is that right now I am going to get on an airplane, I’m leaving for American Samoa this afternoon!

It’s all about the MRF (merf) unit, A look at the potential growth of recycling in Kauai, HI.

One of the blessings of this trip is being able to have educated conversations with one of the people responsible for recycling programs out here in Hawaii.  It’s been a great warm up on this journey to reengage in the discussions of waste management that I enjoyed in the classes and interviews leading up to my graduation from Metropolitan State University in Denver, CO.  In my conversations and visual touring of places around the island of Kauai, there have been several things that point in one direction – to the effective capture and separation of consumed materials as a key factor holding back increased recycling rates.  This is a bold statement, and one many readers won’t understand off the bat; so let’s take a minute to break this down.

This is an example of solid plastic recycling accepted in Kauaii County.  Because there is no separating unit, only the most valuable of plastics are accepted.

This is an example of solid plastic recycling accepted in Kauaii County. Because there is no separating unit, only the most valuable of plastics are accepted.

One of the first things I recognized about being in Hawaii is that the types of recycling accepted is far out of proportion to what I am currently accustomed to. In the majority of North America, recycling systems accept the majority of plastics, including Styrofoam products.  The reason for this ties into several global factors.  The first is a concern about the value of shipping things in adequate quantity.  When a manufacturer or point of sale location orders product, they generally follow principles of economics where the products will be delivered ‘on time’; or when they will be needed for the purpose of the specific operation.  These quantities are required to fill demand, in this case the second concern – sufficient quantities of source separated product.  For post-consumer plastics there are many aspects of the brokerage requirements, including minimum packaging requirements, generally at minimum – one shipping container of source separated product.  This requirement is the same in Denver as it is in Kauai.

I have been pleased with the interaction I have been able to have with the Kauai Solid Waste Management representatives and the level of presence they have attained here in Kauai.  I have found many aspects of the recycling program quite interesting.  The first is that there is a Bottle Bill in place, and actually it is the last one passed in the US, “celebrating over 6.6 billion containers in the last decade”, according to the official government’s info website.  That’s a lot of plastic!

In addition to the idea that only #1 and #2 plastics are currently processed through a recycling stream,  at the county’s government building in Lihue, HI for example there are 4 separate recycling containers! They are for: a) 1 and 2 plastics only (no black plastic allowed), Glass and Aluminum, Cardboard, and Steele.  This system is designed to allow members of the community access to drop of materials should they so decide.  For businesses, this type of separation will prove cumbersome.  In order to increase the overall effectiveness of closing the loop between purchase and capture of consumable packaging single stream recycling will have to become available for this island nation.

For many, the culture of recycling on the island is becoming one that has the look and feel of a natural process.  Throughout the communities are recycling drop of stations where HI5 and other materials can be dropped off.  There are accessible containers in many parts of the community and overall the towns I have been to all have minimum micro trash issues.  It may be due to the lack of single stream systems, but I have noticed that the majority of business spaces do not have public recycling.  Businesses like the ABC Stores, banks and restaurants may have in house systems for their employees to use in the back of the house, but the access to the common public is sorely lacking.  Municipalities will find this struggle to be one that cannot be won unless the process is easy to manage – like single stream recycling offers.

In order to build this type of facility, there are going to be many steps to the process. Fortunately for the citizens, many steps of the process are well under way.  To have a closed community with both a plastic bag ban and a bottle bill is a wonderful thing to find.  Unfortunately there are battles that still have to be fought.  Corporations seeking to sell mass incineration systems regularly press municipalities attempting to convince government officials that purchasing this incineration management system is the solution to their problems.  We already know that burning anything leads to excess greenhouse gasses, something that is bad.  ( If you want to know more – check this page out – it’s great for your whole family!)

For more information on recycling programs in Kauaii, HI please check out this awesome page!

http://www.kauai.gov/Government/Departments/PublicWorks/SolidWaste/RecyclingPrograms/TheKauaiResourceCenter/tabid/108/Default.aspx

Dead white corral and no sea shells – a first observation

On September 6, 2015 I left for the “other side of the world”, to places I have never been but have read about in books and online.  The anxiety and angst of leaving the comforts of home, exhaustion from spending the last week packing over and over again, and the stresses of being in a horrible automobile accident where the at fault party could have very well lost his life had all taken a toll on me, but life and time move forward.  The process of experiencing change is very important to me.  To be in the midst of changes in the global processes means that the battlefront is exactly where you and I are at this moment in time.  According to many including 5 Gyres, our first challenge is to REDUCE the amount of manufactured goods we consume on a daily basis.  Here are some important words from “The Dude” – Jeff Bridges about this specific issue via his partnership with the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Having arrived on the island of Oahu and have been on the island for 24 hours, I have had the pleasure of touring the island, seeing many beautiful locations.  The beaches we swam in were beautiful, but turbid (cloudy/murky)   from recent tropical storms and hurricanes that have been traveling through to Pacific Ocean.  There were not large quantities of plastics or any waste on the beaches I went to.  Much of the beach had storm debris and dead corral that has come in from the storms that have been occurring. Based on tidal patterns, the north shore of Kauai is relatively immune from ocean plastic.  Today I anticipate going to see some of those beaches.  I was quite intrigued to learn about the hurricanes and had to do some research of my own this morning.  This brief article by Mother Jones will provide some greater insight to both the weather and an some of the leading agencies indicating why this trend will continue to grow. In addition to going swimming and snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean, we took a tour of some of the places on the North Shore like animal sanctuaries, recycling drop off locations including places where Jurassic Park was filmed like this scene!

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking to one of the island’s civil servants, one whom is responsible for much of the island’s recycling efforts.  With effective recycling at about 40%, with directional movement towards 70% – I enjoyed an insightful, and very tired, conversation about the issues and struggles facing creating regulations to require effective solutions that are integrated into all parts of culture.  Many of the classroom discussions from the last 2 years have popped into my head over this time.  The visits and interviews with the operators of MRF units in Denver like that of Alpine Waste.  MRF Units are where single stream recycling occurs.  This system is not currently available on most islands, but is a type of facility that more and more communities are developing, as the greater demands for reclaiming natural goods instead of filling landfills.  Here is a quick video about how these units work.

As I awoke today, I spent some early morning time to meditate on the things I have experienced.  The strongest of all yesterday’s activities was the fact that while swimming and snorkeling, I recognized lots of bleached, dead corral in the water and on the beach.  This occurs when the acidity of the water, CO2 concentrations and other factors cause corral reefs to die.  In addition to the dead corral, I noticed the lack of sea shells.  We did find 3 yesterday, ones that were on the inland side of the beach, at the farthest reaches where waters could come ashore.  The real and lasting impact of carbon emissions, waste management and agricultural processes and tourism are visible already, and the vision of the dead corral awakens me.

Heading out on a journey of Plastic Pollution, leaving the comforts of 1st world America.

In less than an hour I am leaving to face the adventure of a lifetime; one where I am leaving the comforts of first world ‘America’ where waste management infrastructure are something most people take for granted; and I am headed out to sea, to fight plastic pollution through direct mitigation efforts in the Asia Pacific.  Today as I awake, preparing to spend time with family and friends the anxiety is beginning to set in.  The idea of traveling 1/2 way around the world is a little daunting to be honest.  It’s also a little daunting for many others to process as well.  Why would some “white American” raised in a comfortable situation leave the comforts of the world to go clean trash on the other side of the planet?

We as a society tend to have an overall awe for first responders.  Tragedy tends to bring out the best in all people.  While we see a paramedic rushing to the scene of an accident, or a firefighter running into a burning building or forest there is a huge awe for those who race to the scene.  There are even more people who come into play when we look at events like tornadoes or hurricanes.  These massive forces have the ability to wipe out everything in their pathway and when it comes to populated ares, the ability to impact large quantities of humans as well.  Where larger catastrophes come into play there are always stories of the fine people who showed courage and strength in these situations.  Generally in the days following the storm, people show up to answer the immediate call.  There are needs like: finding survivors, picking up debris, and rebuilding.  Regardless of where in the world these things happen, calls for support draw out many who have the knowledge, skills or desires to be of service and help others in need.  For me, this is the most logical way to explain why I am going on this journey.

We are alive in a day and age where we are facing the largest natural disaster in the the span of humanity.  Plastic pollution is killing our planet.  Over the last week of August 2015, major news media began publishing stories acknowledging the work of scientists in London, Australia and the United States that was published roughly 8 weeks earlier.  Headlines like this one by National Geographic recognizes that the majority of sea life is already eating plastic and the quantities of oceanic life eating plastic will only continue to grow.   In past blogs I written about the Midway Atoll as an example of the impact plastic is having on the planet.   This plastic doesn’t natural come from the ocean either.  Most plastic is derived from the extreme processes involved in refining oil, and all plastic is essentially – OIL.

As one who was raised in Colonized North America I’ve always been interested in the ways we manage our waste.  Unlike the indigenous people who lived on this land, generally leaving no trace of waste behind, the populations of immigrants who have come or been raised on this land have not held the same cultural values on the natural and visual life found on our planet and in many ways have become unsustainable consumers of the oil and other resources buried deep inside.  In most cases, these resources are the foundation and focus of many corporations who’s sole focus is the development of corporate profits.  This process has brought you convoluted relationships of the mind and reality.  One key example of this is this video:
The reality of this trip is that we’ll never get ALL the trash out of the ocean.  However, in addition to reducing the amount of plastic that we consume the time has come to treat the at risk biospheres as disaster zones.  The natural life of many parts of our world are dying, specifically because of the plastic wastes we create.  From destroying virgin land to extract oil to the current situation where all forms of life, including humans, are consuming one of the permanent byproducts – plastic; it is time for some of us to mitigate our impacts.  Today I head out to answer that call.  I hope you will join me in the adventure.