When COVID-19 hit last year, the construction company on Honolulu’s rail project made the switch from shared water coolers to single-use bottles to keep workers safe. Unfortunately, there was no recycling plan in place, so cans and bottles used by hundreds of workers were being thrown into the trash.
Wendong Wang, an engineer working on the project, mentioned this to his daughters, Punahou juniors Annie ’22 and Jaime ’22, and the twin sisters jumped on the opportunity to come up with a better solution. They started Recycle 4 Keiki, a recycling program to raise sustainability awareness among construction crews, reduce plastic pollution and support the community.
With the help of their father, the girls set up collection bins for recyclables. Each week, they sort the items and take them to the recycling center. Between last July to March 2021, they recycled more than 11,000 bottles and cans. They also collected over 5,000 plastic bottle caps, which aren’t recyclable in Hawai‘i, but have plans to send them to New Hope Energy in Texas, where they will be turned into petroleum products.
So far, with the nearly $450 they’ve raised, the sisters donated Christmas gifts to Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women & Children; art supplies, sports equipment and baby supplies to The Institute of Human Services’ homeless shelter; and funds to Share a Meal program for homeless children. Their efforts were recently recognized in a Hawaii News Now story.
“It feels great to be able to do two things at once, recycle and help out the people in our community, especially kids in need,” Annie said.
Jaime said for her, the highlight has been to provide “a source of happiness, especially during tough times that are worsened by the pandemic.”
The twins plan to continue the initiative for as long as the construction company is relying on plastic water bottles and possibly pass the project on to others when they go off to college.
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