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Eat the Street serves up earth-friendly waste disposal

By Nina Wu

LAST UPDATED: 2:25 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

It's any foodie's dream: to be surrounded by so many of the isle's best lunch wagons that you don't know which line to stand in first.

Eat the Street, held the last Friday of every month in Kakaako, is fast becoming one of the hottest food events in town.

It's also any eco-conscious person's nightmare, with tons of takeout-dinner waste. We're talking single-use plastic and Styrofoam clamshells, plastic bags, utensils, napkins and beverage containers going into the trash.

Making an effort to change all of that is Jennifer Homcy, co-founder of green consulting company TR3EES, which specializes in "greening" events such as concerts and arts festivals.

At the last two Eat the Street events, TR3EEs was on hand with two "zero-waste" stations to collect recyclables and green waste, diverting trash from the landfill.

"We're collecting everything," said Homcy.

That means recyclable plastic bottles, aluminum cans and glass are collected for recycling. Compostables are also collected for a compost bin, while food waste goes directly to a farm.

An estimated 1,000 gallons of waste is produced from each Eat the Street, according to Homcy, most of it packaging. She encourages food vendors to use bio-compostable ware.

She also confirmed something I always wondered about: When you get takeout in a cornstarch plastic or bagasse container, which supposedly composts, and throw it in a regular trash can, it won't necessarily break down the way you expect it to.

To compost you need heat, moisture and biological organisms to break down the material, but this doesn't happen in an anaerobic landfill. You might be able to add the container to your compost pile at home if you have one.

SWEET HOME Waimanalo is a good example of an eatery that collects compostables and composts them at its farm. But most restaurants don't have their own compost pile.

Oahu doesn't yet have a commercial composting facility where businesses can take their biodegradable materials, but efforts are under way to establish one. At the same time, by choosing this alternative, you are opting for more sustainable manufacturing practices, said Homcy.

"We think there's a lot of value for laying down a foundation and awareness for all this before that facility is there," she said.

It's tricky since soups, stews, plate lunches and items with delectable sauces (spicy garlic sauce, mango salsa, sweet wasabi sauce, you name it) can drip or leak out on the way home.

When Homcy gets takeout from a restaurant, she brings her own container with a lid or sometimes asks for aluminum foil.

Homcy says vendors also need to take caution when choosing food packaging products; some might be marketed as eco-friendly but really aren't.

Founder Poni Askew says Eat the Street will seek a corporate sponsor to help vendors use greener serveware.

At the next Eat the Street, try one or more of the following: bring your own bag, bring your own utensils and, if you're eating your takeout meal right away, ask for a plate instead of a to-go box.

Visit and for more information.

Nina Wu writes about environmental issues. Reach her at 529-4892 or

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