Big Isle recyclers do it with glass

One of the people conducting a women's leadership seminar in Northern California led Margaret Pahio of Hilo to a tree in a forest as night fell and the temperature dropped to 30 degrees.

With nothing but a sleeping bag and some water, she was told to spend the next 24 hours deciding what she wanted to do to make this a better world.Pahio decided she wanted to recycle glass.That was 1992.Today, Pahio recycles up to 100 tons of east Hawaii glass per month.

Ninety percent is used for aggregate, many of the same uses that sand and gravel are put to.

A small percentage goes to artistic creations made by Jennie Akana, the daughter of Pahio's former business partner and continuing good friend, Ululani Rosario.

Knee-high molded glass and resin elephants sit on the grounds of Honolulu Zoo, and 17 Honolulu schools display Akana's elephants, turtles, and planters, the result of an effort by former Mayor Jeremy and singer Henry Kapono to publicize recycling.

Glass bottles had been broken and recycled for several decades, but sharp edges on the resulting shards were a problem.

Four months after Pahio's night in the woods, she got a call from Tom Reed at Aloha Glass Recycling on Maui. Reed had bought the first machine built by the Andela company of New York state which crushed glass without producing cutting edges.

Pahio bought the second machine.

Pahio and Rosario both had experience running rubbish companies, but friends didn't exactly predict success with glass.

"Everybody said, 'What are you going to do with the glass?'" Pahio said. "I don't know," she answered. "But we're still going to do it."

The list turned out to be pretty long. It can be used as "cushion" around underground plumbing pipes, Rosario said.

Aloha Glass Recycling uses the "fines" for sandblasting. Hotels use it in water filtration systems. It's used in sand traps in the Hilo Municipal Golf Course. It works as an oil absorbent. All at half the cost of sand.

Still, glass suggests cuts to most people. "A lot of people are wary about it, because it's glass," Akana said.

People start to drive into Rosario's Orchid Island Rubbish & Recycle, then hit the brakes. "A lot of people stop right there," Akana said. "Oh my god, it's glass," they say.

Initially Pahio and Rosario felt the same way. The sand-like glass sits in piles at both of their businesses. "We used to tell the kids, 'Don't play with the glass,'" Akana said. Being kids, they ignored their parents, who discovered no harm was done.

"They'd be covered head to toe with glass. We'd shoot them off with a hose," she said.

One day a friend told Rosario that the glass might be shaped in molds as a substitute for "river rock," the kind of fine gravel that is also used to make Futura Stone.

Akana took one of the friend's molds, ordered special resin from the mainland, and made her first molded object. As soon as she removed the mold, the sculpture fell apart.

The glass hadn't been washed, and Akana had used cold weather resin. She reordered warm weather resin and was on her way to making turtles and elephants.

Very little resin is needed, one ounce to one pound of glass. Akana wears three pairs of rubber gloves while mixing the material, to protect herself from the resin, not the glass. "It's like you're mixing lomi salmon," she said.

Pahio is the subcontractor for the new recycling center in Keaau, where the usual brown, green, and clear glass are collected, and bins are also set up for red, white, and blue glass objects.

An artisan in Waimea plans to melt those down for a special project, Pahio said.

The do-it-yourself bulk user can have a pickup truck load for $15, Rosario said.

600450 Big Isle recyclers do it with glass

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