Recycling Building Materials

Milo Mathews performs at a Restore Kaua‘i swap meet

Kamahalo Kauhane founded Restore Kaua’i last year, and with one third of the landfill made up of construction waste, he set out to change that

Kamahalo Kauhane’s goal with his new nonprofit Restore Kaua’i is to create sustainable solutions.

The volunteer organization, founded just last year, is helping to strengthen everything from cultural practices to recycling techniques, and is dedicated to rejuvenating the community and ‘aina.

“We are providing alternative ways to do things with whatever resources we have on the island,” says Kauhane.

One aspect of the overall plan is a location in Kapa’a where recycled construction materials are available for purchase at reasonable prices.

“We realized that we really needed a community services organization that helps lift up this whole group of people who can’t afford to buy a house,” says Restore Kaua’i’s operations director Erik Burton.

Not only do the recycled products like screens, windows and doors offer assistance to the community, it allows the materials to be diverted from the never-ending pile of rubbish burdening the island’s landfill.

“We hope to be that diversion component to help others use that material,” says Kauhane.

Plus, an island’s capacities are not infinite.

“We’ve got to use the resources we have,” says Burton. “There is a pristine rubbish stream that is not being recycled hardly at all.”

Approximately one-third of all waste that ends up in the Kekaha landfill consists of construction materials, according to Burton.

“It’s been a challenge just feeling it out because there is a mentality that you just demolish a house,” says Kauhane.

But, he hopes that working with developers and contractors will help shift their outlook.

Kamahalo Kauhane. Photos from Erik Burton

“We’re not the overall solution, but we’re trying to contribute in the best way we can,” he says.

“We’re on this fragile island and we’re at capacity already.”

Materials are currently available for people to purchase by appointment and every Saturday during Restore Kaua’i’s weekly swap meet.

Not only can people find products to buy every weekend, they can sell their materials as well.

“You’ll still get some value out of it and it won’t go to the landfill,” says Burton.

And the weekly swap meet is a fun time to be had by all.

“We are that community hub,” says Burton.

Local vendors sell products of all varieties, and a stage is always set for live music with artists such as Restore Kaua’i’s events manager Ken Jannelli.

“We hope to be a thriving local Saturday swap meet for residents and visitors alike, showcasing Kaua’i’s best crafters, artists, farmers and food vendors, as well as providing space for yard sales and used items,” says Jannelli. “Our 16-acre site is ideal for live music and entertainment, and we also look forward to hosting concerts, fundraisers and various cultural events.”

Another thing Kauhane, a Kaua’i native who graduated from Kamehameha Schools on Oahu, looks forward to is working with developers and communicating to them where native sites are located prior to any construction taking place.

“We know where cultural places are and we can tell them. That way, if they are developing, they don’t have to waste their time trying not to alter the state that it’s in, but build into the natural landscape,” he says.

He also hopes to plant native species on the land leased by Honsador Lumber where the warehouse is located.

“We like creating things and looking at things creatively,” he says.

Another imaginative aspect to Restore Kaua’i is its offer to build websites – $500 for fieve pages – and restore used materials, while at the same time creating local jobs and bringing in students to help develop their skills.

“When you give somebody a job, when you help to lift them up and provide them with a job skill, it’s a miracle, one human being at a time. It’s really humbling when you make a change like that,” says Burton who is originally from California and moved to Kaua’i almost a decade ago.

“We’re going to be needing each other on this island in the middle of the sea,” says Kauhane.

The recent storms particularly proved how important it is for the community to be self-sufficient in each ahupua’a.

“We’ve got to pull our ideas together. We need more people to ride on this voyage with us and as we move forward that’s when we bring people on the boat.”

Visit restorekauai.org for more information.

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