More than 26 percent of the food in Hawaiʻi goes uneaten each year – that’s nearly one billion dollars’ worth of food likely ending up in the landfill. But Kauaʻi wastes a lot less food, and thanks to a backyard effort that could prove a solution to problem of food waste statewide.

Kauaʻi County has been offering free bins to residents for nearly two decades. According to Allison Fraley, the county’s solid waste program coordinator, “For the county, it’s super cost-effective because we just have a one-time purchase of the unit,” says Fraley. “Instead of putting it, you know, at the curb or us paying contractors to manage materials, it’s managed in everybody’s backyard.”

She says Kauaʻi’s backyard composting program diverts about one ton of food waste a year from entering the island’s only landfill in Kekaha, which is a lot for the island’s small population. Keola Aki, the county’s recycling programs coordinator, says at a cost to the county of about $50 per unit, the county sees a return on investment within the first year.  “Every month we distribute about 30 a month and it comes out to less than $5 per ton for processing,” says Aki, “which is the most cost-effective program we have on the island right now.”

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Author: Ku`uehi Hiraishi, Hawai’i Public Radio
Photo: Marina Lohbach, Shutterstock, Hawai’i Public Radio