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How to Recycle

How to Prepare Materials for Recycling

Tips to Reduce, Reuse & Recycle
and view the infographic at the bottom of this article



Aluminum cans can be brought to recycling centers on the Big Island. The aluminum is baled and sent to mainland processors. Some local centers both in Hilo and Kailua-Kona offer cash back. There are tremendous benefits from substituting recycled aluminum for virgin-mined aluminum. Consider these facts:

  • 99% of all beer cans and 97% of all soft drink cans are made of aluminum.

  • It requires only 5% as much energy when a can is made of recycled aluminum as compared to virgin ore!

  • Air and water pollution are reduced by 95 to 97%, respectively.

  • American consumers and industry throw away enough aluminum to rebuild the entire U.S. commercial air fleet every 3 months.


  • Sort: Separate aluminum from steel. (Hint: A magnet sticks to steel, but won't stick to aluminum.)

  • Prepare: Keep your aluminum clean of food, paper, etc.

  • Bag: Toss your rinsed cans into a shopping bag for storage, but put loose in recycling bins.


  • Sort: Green leaves and grass from brown sticks.

  • Prepare: Break up into smaller pieces. (Smaller pieces will break down faster.) Please click on the link above for instructions on how to build a compost pile.

    Backyard Composting Brochure


  • Reuse: Use your empty jars and bottles to store those bulk products!

  • Sort: Separate by color.

  • Prepare: Rinse with water.

  • Bag: Or box for storage, but put loose in recycling bins.

Paper Fiber

There are several different types of paper fiber that are accepted by commercial recyclers on Hawai`i Island.

  • Newsprint - Newspapers and other newsprint-type publications are highly recyclable. Old newsprint is gathered by local recyclers and sold to mainland markets to be made into new newsprint. Some vendors accept glossy inserts and brown paper grocery bags. Check with your local vendor before adding to newspaper to be recycled. Remove non-recyclable items such as twine or plastic before recycling.

  • Magazines - This is the typical glossy multi-page magazine. It is gathered and sold to mainland markets. Remove non-recyclable items such as twine or plastic before recycling.

  • Office Paper - The two types of plain paper used in schools and businesses are white and mixed/colored office paper.

    - White office paper should always be separated from mixed office paper when it is turned in for recycling. White office paper with colored ink is acceptable as white office paper.

    - Other types of mixed office paper include: pastel-colored paper, colored business forms, pastel-colored envelopes, accounting ledgers, tab & time cards, fax paper, manila folders, bleached envelopes, letters, loose leaf pages, scratch and message sheets, carbonless copy paper (NCR), receipts. Office paper products are highly recyclable and are sold to mainland markets.

  • Paper/boxboard - Cereal boxes are good examples of paper/boxboard. Do not confuse this type with corrugated cardboard and do not place in the bin when recycling corrugated cardboard.

All other types of paper fibers cannot be recycled at this time on Hawai`i Island.

  • Paper towels, napkins & toilet paper: These items cannot be recycled on Hawai`i Island. These items can be shredded into your compost pile. When used in composting, paper fiber contributes carbon to the mix and is considered part of the “brown matter.”

  • Photographs: These items are glossy and the dyes used pose a problem in conventional recycling efforts. The colored dyes often contain toxic chemicals and should not be used in compost piles. Instead, these items may be donated to a doctor’s office, schools, or community centers. There they can be reused many times as reading material and in craft projects.


  • Reuse: Use back sides for drawing. Shopping bags are good for wrapping or mailing.

  • Sort: Separate white paper, newsprint, corrugated cardboard and mixed office paper. Check with your local vendor about magazines and glossy newspaper inserts. No fluorescent paper.

  • Prepare: It is not necessary to remove staples from paper. Cardboard should be flattened.

  • Store: Most paper fibers can be boxed for storage, but put loose in recycling bins. No bags.


Residents are first urged to REDUCE the amount of plastic they must throw away by choosing products in glass, steel or aluminum containers, rather than plastic, since THESE ITEMS CAN BE READILY RECYCLED, or exploring ways to re-use empty containers.

Be aware of the types of plastic available and what types can be recycled. Plastic varies. Only a limited type of plastic is collected on Hawai`i Island for recycling, typically only #1 and #2.

Each plastic container should have the triangular recycling symbol and a number within the triangle. The numbers range from one through seven. As the numbers increase, so does the difficulty in recycling that item. The different types of plastics are listed below:

No.1: PETE (polyethylene terephthalate). Usually clear or green, sinks in water, rigid & glossy. Examples include soda bottles, peanut butter jars, vegetable oil bottles.

No. 2: HDPE (high density polyethylene). Semi-rigid, sinks in water. Examples include milk and water jugs, juice, vinegar and bleach bottles.

No. 3: PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Semi-rigid, glossy, sinks in water. Examples include detergent/cleanser bottles, pipes.

No. 4: LDPE (low density polyethylene). Flexible, not crinkly. Examples include 6-pack rings, bread bags, sandwich bags.

No. 5: PP (polypropylene). Semi-rigid, low gloss. Examples include margarine tubs, straws, screw-on lids.

No. 6: PS (polystyrene). Often brittle, glossy. Examples include Styrofoam, packing peanuts, egg-cartons, foam cups.

No. 7: OTHER (multi-layer plastics). Squeezable. Examples include ketchup and syrup bottles.

Only the following LIMITED types of plastics are recycled on Hawai`i Island:

  • Non-HI5 No. 1, No. 2 & No. 5 Plastic, and No. 4 bags at County-operated transfer stations Hilo, Honoka'a, Kea'au, Kealakehe, Keauhou, Pahoa, Puako, Waimea, Wai'ohinua.

  • HI5 Plastic at County-operated transfer stations. All sites open from 8:00 am — 3:30pm, at Hilo, Honoka'a, Kea'au, Kealakehe, Keauhou, Pahoa, Puako, Waimea, and at Atlas Recycling in Hilo on Makaala Street and in Kailua-Kona on Pawai Place.

  • No. 2 Plastic Grocery Sacks at all Safeway, Wal-Mart and K-Mart locations and knotted and bagged at the above County-operated transfer stations.

  • All types of plastic can be sent to Honolulu Recovery Systems in O'ahu for recycling. Residents can mail, at their own cost, their residential plastic to:

Honolulu Recovery Systems
(808) 845-7581 PO Box 6356
Honolulu , HI 96818


  • Reuse: Use your empty containers to store those bulk products!

  • Sort: Separate recyclable from non-recyclable plastic.

  • Prepare: Rinse with water.

  • Bag: Toss your rinsed cans into a shopping bag for storage, but put loose in recycling bins.

Used Motor Oil

    • Prepare: Place in a non-contaminating container. Reuse old oil containers or place in a clean, rinsed plastic container with a screw top lid such as a milk or juice jug. Do not use bleach/chlorine/Clorox and pesticide containers for storage or transportation.

    • Store: Keep out of rain. Place in a secure location

Reduce Your Water Footprint


Wheels For Wishes

Attribution to With This Graphic Plastic Infographic