PVT In Nānākuli Is Hawaiʻi’s Largest Recycler

When Oʻahu construction companies replace an old building with a new one, all of the wood, roofing materials, and electrical wiring they remove after demolition ends up in the hills above Nānākuli.

That’s where the private company PVT operates the island’s only construction and demolition debris landfill. They bill themselves as Hawaiʻi’s largest recycler.

How Construction Debris Gets Recycled

I went on a tour a couple of weeks ago, and the most surprising thing is how little debris we saw. (Also, it doesn’t smell.)

Most of the debris doesn’t stay for long. PVT recycles or reuses approximately 80 percent of it.

  • They convert plastic and wood debris into fuel for energy production.
  • Concrete can be crushed up and reused.
  • Metal can be recycled.

Local employees sort the largest debris to find the recyclable bits.

pvt workers
What can’t be recycled and goes into the ground? Broken glass is an example — it’s not really safe to handle or efficient to recycle. Asbestos is another. Those materials are buried and covered over. Lining beneath the surface serves to protect groundwater from the debris.

ground water protection

Why Have A Separate Construction Landfill?

At full capacity, the PVT plant accepts 3,000 tons of debris every day. In places that don’t have a dedicated C&D, all that stuff ends up in the regular city mixed waste dump.

That means that those dumps — which contain food scraps and diapers and very much do smell — fill up faster. Also, if builders can’t recycle debris, they can’t get the tax credits that go along with sustainable building. That means their construction costs are higher, and so are housing prices.

PVT Is Moving Across Lualualei Naval Road

PVT has operated the facility for 20 years. They’re nearly out of space in their initial landfill, which is on the Waiʻanae side of Lualualei Naval Road. They plan to expand to the other side of that road, on land owned by an affiliate company. The permitting process is underway.

This map shows the new project site.

map of new PVT project
According to PVT, the site is the only place on Oʻahu where they could relocate. “The site for a landfill needs to be relatively flat and in an area with a dry climate,” says Steve Joseph, PVT’s Vice President of Operations. “The valley in Nānākuli where PVT is located provides ideal conditions.”

Here’s more of Steve talking about PVT’s recycling efforts.

If Oʻahu keeps growing, future generations will probably picnic atop our torn-down houses. PVT is planting native brush on the site of the current landfill, to improve the way it looks. Someday, we citizens could decide to buy back the land and turn it into a a park or playfields.

drone view of pvt facility

It’s happened before — Ala Moana Park, the city’s busiest park, was once a city dump.

Some Recycling Of Our Own

Driving in through the PVT gate, my wife and I noticed a small grove of lemon trees in dire need of harvest. On the tour, we asked if we could take some on the way out. We did. They made terrific lemonade.

PVT published public notice of their expansion plans. You’re invited to read and comment on them here.