“Take, Leave, Whatevas” – the most recent approach to encourage recycling in Hawaii has got a little bit of attitude. You’ll be seeing handmade wire mesh baskets piggybacked on most public trashcans in Oahu. And accompanying signs that read, “HI-5. Take, Leave, Whatevas” get straight to the point. Take the recyclable out of the basket and use it as you wish, leave it in there or just sit back and let others do the work. This is how a local non-profit takes matters into its own hands when it comes to recycling.Public trashcans have got a new sidekick, the HI-5 baskets.

Eating in Public (EIP) has been making and distributing these baskets for the past five years, whether the local government likes it or not. EIP did this without asking, as part of the project’s overall message to the public – If it doesn’t work, then fix it. And because the baskets are still around, perhaps officials really don’t mind. The wire baskets came about after the city and county of Honolulu’s decade-long struggle to get people to recycle. The city’s latest effort? Those blue public recycling bins that you may see around. They just don’t seem to be working, collecting more trash than cans/bottles/glass.

The town you hail from may already have a solid recycling system in place. But on Oahu, it’s a different story. The city has always seemed to be a little behind when it comes to this particular movement. And this simply shouldn’t be the case for an island with limited resources and space. Currently residents have monthly home pick-ups for recyclables, which is a good start but in the end, requires much more effort on the city’s part. Getting someone off the couch, away from his/her favorite TV show and outside in time for the pick-up service is a chore.

Hawaii does provide recycling centers throughout the islands, where anyone can exchange their soda cans for five-cents a piece. I try to be diligent in doing this, but to be honest, giving the HI-5 collectibles to someone else or not doing anything at all seem much more tempting than the $5 I’ll end up earning.

Don’t get me wrong. The city and county of Honolulu does have good intentions. The plastic bag ban in the Kauai and Maui counties last year proved to be a good step. But it seems the only thing lacking is that little nudge of motivation. It takes inpiduals from the community, like EIP, to provide that extra push in educating and motivating the public. With the wire mesh baskets as sidekicks to the trashcans, there’s no mistaking them as garbage barrels and no more sifting through the trash for HI-5 collectibles.

Next time you’re in Hawaii, please be mindful of your trash and make a valiant effort to recycle what you can. Every piece counts toward making Hawaii even more beautiful for your many trips to come. Mahalo for your kokua! (Thank you for your help!)


  1. Great idea! I haven’t seen these yet, but am stoked to hear about it. Trash is trash, but recyclable is recyclable! On a regular paddling run (6 – 8 miles) I come across so much ‘opala’ in the ocean..I end up with a whole bag by the end of my run. This ‘opala’ can kill our marine life as well as ending up on the North Hawaiian Islands in a mega trash pile. Please dispose of trash properly and please recycle! Mahalo!

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