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City Launches Oʻahu Compost Project in Chinatown

HONOLULU – Three months into implementation, the
Oʻahu Compost Project continues to successfully divert food waste and excess food from Oʻahu’s waste stream. Edible, quality excess foods are redistributed to feed people, and food scraps are composted in an in-vessel composting unit that produces valuable soil amendment products.

The Oʻahu Compost Project was made possible by a grant awarded to the City and County of Honolulu (City) Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency (Resilience Office) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service, and with additional resources and support provided by the City’s Department of Environmental Services. Project partner organizations include Aloha Harvest, Zero Waste Oʻahu, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi (SCH), Full Circle Farm, Supersistence, and the City’s Office of Economic Revitalization. Participating restaurants include The Daley, Encore Saloon, Pizza Mamo, Proof Social Club, The Pig and the Lady, and Lam’s Kitchen.

On Oʻahu, food waste comprises about 20% of the overall solid waste stream.

“There are so many environmental, social and economic reasons why we shouldn’t be incinerating our food when it could instead be used as a resource,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “I’m proud to see a collaborative project like this between the City and local organizations that only better the community, both inside and outside of Chinatown.”

When participating restaurants have edible, quality excess foods, Aloha Harvest picks up the food and redistributes it to feed those in need.

“Food rescue means fewer hungry people, less wasted food and less food we need to import,” said Phil Acosta, executive director of Aloha Harvest. “We rescue what we can to redistribute to agencies feeding the hungry, and the inedible scraps aren’t wasted, but are upcycled to help grow more local food.”

Once a week, Aloha Harvest also picks up bins of food scraps from participating restaurants free of charge in a flatbed truck donated by the GIFT Foundation. The bins were donated by the ENV, and are each equipped with a lid-lock to prevent pests, smells, and rubbish contamination.

The food scraps are taken to Full Circle Farm in Waimānalo, where SCH stores their in-vessel composting system—a 20-foot shipping container with an auger system. The machine is the first of its kind in Hawaiʻi, and with it, SCH received the first operational food waste composting permit from the State Department of Health.

“With this machine, we’re able to alleviate problems of odors, pests, and leachate commonly associated with composting, while reducing the time it takes to produce a healthy soil amendment to only two to four months total,” said Rafael Bergstrom, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawai‘i.

“The rich, nutrient dense soil amendment resource created from this process can be used to naturally improve the viability of our soil and boost food production,” added Dexter Kishida, food security and sustainability program manager for the City’s Resilience Office. “It gives us an opportunity to better support local agricultural producers and decrease reliance on imported farm input materials.”

The Oʻahu Compost Project implements strategies and actions of both the City’s Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan and Climate Action Plan, as well as contributes to progress on statewide solid waste reduction goals of the Aloha+ Challenge.

The two-year pilot project will measure the potential for scalability and replication.

Click here to watch the news conference.

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