Shred the Hawaii Cardboard Problem
HONOLULU (KHON2) — Americans throw away about 67.4 million tons of paper and cardboard every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The most recent 2018 EPA statistics said those products — non-durables like newspapers and paper plates — made up the bulk of municipal solid waste. Hawaii also uses a lot of cardboard. According to Circle Pack, that’s enough cardboard to make a big hill, maybe a couple.
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“I was inspired to start Circle Pack to provide packaging supplies to local businesses in Hawaii and quickly realized there were challenges in the area of recycling and waste management,” said 30-year-old founder Evan Lam, who currently lives in Waimea.
From e-commerce to agriculture, Hawaii goes through thousands of boxes every day. When recycled, it is shipped thousands of miles, according to Circle Pack.
“Unfortunately, in the outer islands, we have limited infrastructure and a great need for responsible management of our resources, including recycled materials and organic resources,” Lam said.
Lam launched his organization in 2020, which is based in Waimea but operates across the island. Circle Pack works with the local community to use cardboard in making soil for farmers. They also make compostable packaging, garden and art supplies to replace imports.
“People want compostable soil, materials and systems that reduce waste instead of incentivize it,” Lam continued. “But there is a disconnect between what is practiced and funded and what people see on a daily basis. With climate change, supply chains and the pandemic, the feedback I get is that people are really ready to do things differently.
Circle Pack is currently focused on demonstrating economic development opportunities at the community level.
“The company sells packaging supplies directly to local businesses, works with a network of nonprofit partners and community organizers to host Community Shred Days, and I also offer mobile shredding services,” Lam said. .
Lam added that it has a high-capacity, mobile shredding setup that can go anywhere and turn hundreds of pounds of used cardboard into more useful form.
“Working with a network of great community partners like Ma’ona Community Gardens, I’ve managed to shred over 22,000 pounds of cardboard, and most of it has gone to create soil for our local farmers,” said said Lam.
As for the other islands, Lam is happy to share that there are people who have also taken the initiative to invest in their own equipment and work on similar projects. He knows teachers, farmers, entrepreneurs and community organizers who implement their own shredding programs.
“I’m thinking especially of Hanai Kaiaulu, from Nanakuli, who has done a lot of work teaching her youngsters about composting, recycling and food skills while creating diversion programs in her school,” Lam said. “I know the majority of the current projects, so anyone interested in connecting is welcome to contact me for more information.”
Anyone interested in getting involved can email [email protected]
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“I think the main message is that we are in a historic moment and the job of the present is to avert disaster while improving the lives of our communities, the communities that make Hawaii what it is,” Lam said. “Without these people, Hawaii ceases to be Hawaii. It really is time to do things differently.