The Islands’ Trash Talker
Wednesday - December 19, 2007
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By Russell Nanod
Community Affairs Manager for Waste Management of Hawaii
I talk trash with almost everyone I meet. I do it on a daily basis - on the golf course, over lunch and most definitely at work. My job as community relations manager for Waste Management of Hawaii requires a whole lot of trash talking - about opala, that is. Educating people about the landfill and how it helps keep our island communities safe and sustainable is a fundamental component of our operations here.
Waste Management of Hawaii operates landfills on Oahu (Waimanalo Gulch Landfill), Hawaii (West Hawaii Landfill) and Kauai (Kekaha Landfill). Gone are the days when a landfill was simply a hole in the ground. Today, responsible waste management involves close communication and cooperation with government and health officials, environmental specialists and, most importantly, the community. Building relationships and trust with community members plays a large role in sustaining our business - this involves being aware and sensitive to the fears, concerns and values held by the community. Despite resistance from select community members, we remain steadfast in our mission to educate the community and work with City officials to address any operational issues or concerns, and to show residents that the company operates the safest, most environmentally sound landfill. Waste Management has worked hard to reaffirm our strong commitment to the Hawaii landfills we operate by listening to community concerns and following up with immediate changes and improvements to our operations. Working with the community involves a lot of compassion and hard work. When I first joined Waste Management in 2005, the company sent me into neighboring communities to go door-to-door to talk with neighbors and gather feedback. With this information, we were able to address and correct the problems identified by our neighbors.
A highlight of my job is providing landfill tours. Waste Management welcomes all members of the community to tour the facility to see firsthand the clean and safe quality of landfill operations. Since August of 2005, I have had the pleasure of conducting educational tours for more than 3,000 students, teachers, elected officials, the media, and interested community members and counting. I also get to visit local schools to conduct presentations about solid waste and how to protect the environment.
Being a good community partner requires a commitment to help those in need. Waste Management actively supports local schools, community and environmental groups, and business organizations. In 2007 alone, the company followed Mayor Hannemann’s generous community benefits lead and donated nearly $80,000 in support of local groups and organizations statewide. In 2008, we are establishing a $50,000 college fund for Hawaii’s children. On Oahu, we’re especially proud to support Mayor Hannemann’s Waianae community benefits package with support for neighboring community organizations like U.S. Vets and Nani ‘O Waianae.
Waste Management also partners with communities, government and industries to redevelop closed landfill sites into recreational and commercial facilities.
Did you know that the 30-acre Kakaako Waterfront Park on Oahu was once a landfill? It has become clich, but is worth repeating for the sake of creating greater awareness - Hawaii is a unique and special place.
As residents, we all enjoy and benefit from its natural beauty and bounty. As citizens, we are all responsible for its care and protection. That includes the management and disposal of the waste we all generate. Each of us has a part to play in ensuring that our temporary stay here is not debilitating or destructive to the land that sustains us.
Waste Management of Hawaii is proud to be able to play a small role in that stewardship and give back to our host community.
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