Tour de Trash 2015

2007 City Livability Awards Winner
Sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors
Honolulu is proud to be the recipient of an
Outstanding Achievement Award for Tour de Trash.

For 28 years this award has recognized mayoral leadership for developing and implementing programs that
improve the quality of life in America's cities.
Congratulations to all the participating businesses and waste/recycling companies that have contributed to the success of Tour de Trash.

FREE Tour Series

Tour Schedule/Registration
Virtual Tour
Costs and Sponsors
Custom Tours for School Groups


Tour de Trash is in its 17th year, and those interested know they better reserve their seat quickly. Buses are usually fully booked within a couple weeks with long wait lists for each tour. It’s surprising how many people are interested in getting up-close and personal with our trash.

And that’s good, because we face some challenges in waste management and need to be knowledgeable in determining future directions. On an island, land is one of our most precious resources, and reducing our use of landfills is a critical goal of our waste management strategy. In order to move forward successfully with major recycling initiatives and alternative technologies, it’s imperative that we engage the public in intelligent discussion. Raising public awareness of our opala– through Tour de Trash, our Opala.org website and other educational programs – helps to facilitate better public discussions and decision-making on recycling and waste management initiatives.

“How we manage our island’s waste today will affect generations to come. The more we know about systems and technology, the better equipped we are to develop and participate in programs at home and at work. Tour de Trash offers an opportunity to get an up-close look at the recycling and waste processing operations on Oahu and peek behind those “Employees Only” doors at island businesses that have instituted successful recycling programs. Now in its 15th year, Tour de Trash is an award-winning educational program. Get on board and learn more about the dynamic world of waste” – Kirk Caldwell, Mayor, 2013

Oahu’s annual recycling rates have increased five-fold from approximately 100,000 tons in 1990 to more than 700,000 tons today. Based on a total waste stream of 1.6 million tons annually, that’s a 45 percent recycling rate – well above the national average of 27-32 percent. Combined with waste-to-energy, Oahu’s landfill diversion rate is almost 75 percent, again exceeding the national average of 41-44 percent.

There is more to accomplish, and the job gets tougher as we reach for higher diversion rates. Public awareness through programs such as Tour de Trash is critical to moving any new initiatives forward.

Tour de Trash is a collaborative event, coordinated by the City and supported by island businesses engaged in recycling at many levels.

Tour Schedule/Registration

Tours 1 & 3: Recycling & Waste Processors

Tuesday, April 21, 2015; Saturday, September 12, 2015
8:30 am - 1:00 pm
Start-finish: Kapolei Hale

On the Recyclers and Waste Processors tours you will visit the City's HPOWER waste-to-energy facility, where all of the island's trash is incinerated to generate electricity. HPOWER has the capacity to process one million tons of trash per year, providing Oahu with up to 10% of its electricity needs or enough electricity to power 60,000 homes. The tour stops at the new 100+ acre Hawaiian Earth Recycling (HER) facility in Wahiawa, where all of the City's green waste is delivered for recycling into mulch and compost.  At HER you will be able to see how green waste is ground into mulch and placed into long open-air windrows for processing into compost. The tour also stops at RRR Recycling Services, where you will be able to walk the elevated sort line to see how the recyclables from the City's curbside blue cart program are sorted into individual commodity types and processed for recycling. The tour stops at the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill, where you will get to see and learn about the environmental protections employed by today's modern landfill, including its complex liner, leachate catchment and methane recovery systems.

Tour 2: Wastewater Management

Thursday, July 16, 2015
8:30 am - 12:30 pm
Start-finish: Kapolei Hale

On the Wastewater Management Tour you will find out what happens to the water you wash down the drain and flush down the toilet.  The tour visits the Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant, where 25 million gallons of sewage per day are treated through screens, filters, and clarifiers that clean and separate liquids from solids.  The tour then travels to the Honouliuli Water Reclamation Facility, where the Board of Water Supply further processes the wastewater into cleaner water, which can be used for irrigation.Collection System Maintenance will also provide a cool demonstration of how sewer pipes are serviced and maintained using a robotic Closed-Circuit TV camera and Vactor truck.

At the conclusion of the tour, the buses will return to Kapolei Hale where City recycling staff will be available for a brief discussion of the tour and the City's recycling program. Recycling staff will also be distributing some of the division's Opala literature.

Additional Tour Information: 
Tour participation is free. Space is limited, and reservations are made on a first-come basis. Please consider your reservation a binding agreement to attend. A no-show is a seat we could have given to another participant. Tour includes round trip site-to-site transportation. Tour does not include lunch or refreshments. Please feel free to bring snacks and/or water. Parking is free at Kapolei Hale. Tour schedule times are approximate. Please arrive at the start location 15-20 minutes before the scheduled departure time. Tour sites are subject to change. Call 768-3200 to register. Must be 12 years-old to attend. Under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

The City is able to coordinate custom tours for school groups, solid waste advisory committees, technical associations, visiting professionals and other such groups. Custom tour participants must provide their own transportation.  Please call 768-3200 for more information.

Virtual Tour

Would you like to take a virtual Tour de Trash? Not quite the same as being there, but may help you decide if you would like to sign up for one or more of the tours.

The recycling and waste processing sites are most popular. People get to see the inner workings of the HPOWER waste-to-energy facility -- look into the furnace; peek into the RDF (refuse-derived fuel) room; see how metals are extracted from the mixed waste for recycling. They walk through a canyon of recycled paper bales at Island Recycling. They talk with the recycling facility managers, hear about their challenges, ask questions. They walk the sort line at Honolulu Recovery Systems, where the materials collected in their neighborhood recycling bins are sorted by commodity.

Just like tourists, they pose for pictures in front of the mountains of metal at Schnitzer Steel Hawaii and get free samples of compost at Hawaiian Earth Products.

A host of businesses take the tour groups back-of-the-house to show how they’ve instituted successful recycling programs – the Hard Rock Café, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Hawaii Convention Center are among the leaders. The Sheraton Waikiki shows off its mini MRF. Young Laundry demonstrates how it put a biodiesel fuel to work.

The facilities and businesses are proud to have this opportunity to showcase their operations to a local group of interested citizens. They know as well as the City, that educating our public about the challenges we face in waste management today will provide strong public support for the next directions.

Also, consider taking virtual tour on The Green Channel. Check out dozens of story titles including “Where’d Our Stuff Go?” about the journey of the materials in the blue carts; “Food For Worms,” about worm composting in schools; “Green Waste,” about Oahu’s green waste composting; “Great Waste, Less Filling,” about the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill; “H-POWER;” and lots more!

Costs and Sponsors

Tour de Trash is FREE to the public. The tour includes round trip site-to-site bus transportation. Parking is free at Kapolei Hale. Please arrive at start/finish location 20-30 minutes before the scheduled departure time. Tour buses depart at 8:30 sharp. Tour sites are subject to change.

Tour guides on each bus are City Department of Environmental Services staff. Each participating tour site makes their facility available to the tour group for about an hour and provides in-house staff to conduct the tour and respond to questions.

Tour de Trash is promoted in of the City’s WasteLine e-newsletter and on the City’s Opala.org website. City staff handles registration, planning and coordination.

The City supports the costs of the buses, tour guides, promotion, registration, planning and site coordination. The participating tour sites offer their facilities and staffing resources at no charge, and are considered sponsors and partners:

City Department of Environmental Services – Collection Systems Maintenance
HPOWER – Covanta Energy
Hawaiian Earth Recycling
Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant
Honouliuli Water Reclamation Facility
RRR Recycling Services
Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill – Waste Management

Past tour sites include:
Access Information Management
AES Hawaii
Baseyard Hawaii Reuse Facility
City Board of Water Supply
City Department of Facilities Maintenance – Automotive Equipment Services
Fasi Municipal Building
Grace Pacific
Green Bed Factory
Gyotaku Japanese Restaurant
Hard Rock Café
Hawaii Convention Center
Hickam Air Force Base
Honolulu Hale
Honolulu Recovery Systems
Honolulu Zoo
Hilton Hawaiian Village
Hyatt Regency Waikiki
Ihilani Hotel
Island Demo
Island Recycling
Island Shell
Kahala Hotel & Resort
Navy Biosolids Composting Facility
Pacific Biodiesel
Pacific Corporate Solutions
Queen’s Medical Center
Re-use Hawaii
Refrigerant Recycling
Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant
Schnitzer Steel Hawaii
Sheraton Waikiki
Tripler Army Medical Center

Unitek Solvent Services
Young Laundry & Dry Cleaning


Tour de Trash is an outgrowth of the annual Partnership for the Environment education conferences the City coordinated since 1995. These conferences were developed to educate our business community about the benefits and how-to’s of implementing recycling into their waste management practices. The partners included business leaders from hotels, restaurants, building management, food and beverage industry, dry cleaning, media, and publishers, who had become experts in recycling and were willing to share their expertise with other businesses to help them get started or improve their existing recycling programs.

The conferences were full-day events held at local hotels. Workshops ran in breakout meeting rooms morning and afternoon, with an awards luncheon midday to recognize new members and outstanding recycling programs. The partners presented their programs in video, PowerPoint and display boards. And because each conference was held at a Partner hotel, the conference included a back-of-the-house tour of the hotel’s recycling operation.

People commented repeatedly on how they learned so much from the tour.

In 1998 when the Partner hotel site shifted out of Waikiki to the Leeward side of Oahu, where many of our recycling and waste processing operations are located, we saw an opportunity to introduce the conference attendees to a full morning of site visits to the landfill, waste-to-energy facility, composting facility, and metal recycling company. And at the end of the day, all we heard was how fabulous and educational the tour was.

We finally got it. Getting up-close and personal with trash and having the opportunity to speak with the managers onsite was far more vivid than watching it in a slide show.

In 1999 we launched the first Tour de Trash – an open house of all our Partner businesses and facilities. Instead of bringing our experts into a sterile workshop room to present their recycling programs, we loaded our attendees onto six buses and brought them to the Partners. Each bus toured different sites with particular industry focus – restaurant/hotel, workplace, recycled products, construction and demolition, recycling and waste processing – allowing attendees to gather as much information as possible in their area of interest.

The conference was now “all tour;” workshops were conducted on-site. The buses pulled out at 9:00 a.m. and returned around 4:00 p.m. when everyone gathered for a pau hana networking with drinks and pupus.

You would think the participants would be exhausted by a full day of trash, but as each bus unloaded, they strolled to the networking session talkative and bright-faced. They ate, drank and talked trash for a couple hours, and many of them returned the next year to take another tour.

Each year Tour de Trash has grown in popularity, beyond the business sector audience to a broad general public group, including college students, educators, senior citizens, military, state and other county government, and community leaders. The interest has been overwhelming. The 2002 tours fully booked in the first week of promotion – 300 filled our six bus tours with more than 500 on the wait list.

Call 768-3200 for registration.

© 2005 City & County of Honolulu's Department of Environmental Services.