Recycling rates have been dropping on Oahu. 

While the cost of the program has been rising...thanks in part to contaminated recyclables in those blue bins.

Everyone has a reason for why they recycle.

"For extra money, and just to save the environment," said Kaimuki resident Mark Makiyama.

"I don't want to see the bottles go into the trash, on the beaches or end up on the side of the road. So I might as well recycle them," stated University of Hawaii student Danielle Martinez.

But not everyone feels the same.

In fact fewer glass bottles are being recycled.
Partly because restaurants and bars are no longer required to return glass bottles, after the state ran out of money to subsidize recyclers for glass.
Recycling also became more expensive because China cracked down on contaminated products, like cardboard covered with food.

"We ship 100% of our recycleables to the mainland, that was ending up in China. But with their restrictions on contamination, it is almost impossible to meet their requirement to ship it there," said Lori Kahikina, the Department of Environmental Services Director.

Part of the problem is the programs big blue bin. Everything gets dumped in together: paper, plastic, cans and glass.
Some cities use a multi-compartment bin to keep contamination down, but don't expect to see that here.  

"If you make it more difficult, I think you will get less people recycling. So it is easier to put it all in one bin and we will sort it out at a recycling facility," stated Kahikina.

That contract costs the city millions every year. 
But there is another option that could instead earn millions, by burning recycleables to generate electricity.

"I would like to burn most of our recycleables at the H-power plant. It is more cost effective and better for the environment because we are not shipping it away to the mainland using fossil fuel," added Kahikina. 

"If we could actually use it to make electricity and power, and lower the cost of electricity - that would be amazing," said Martinez.

Some worry about the impact of burning plastics, but Kahikina said H-power filters emissions down to federal and state approved levels.

Right now, the city cannot burn those recycled products but she hopes to make changes to the recycling contract at the end of the year.
In the meantime, she said would like to see people reduce the need for recycling, "If we can get the community to not generate so much waste, just reuse as much as you can."