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Mayor Clarifies Stance Amid
Recycling ‘Rumors’

Updated 01:56 PM HST, March 29, 2013
Posted 11:32 AM HST, March 29, 2013
County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa has clarified his plans for the future of recycling amid “confusion and concern” regarding the status of county-funded residential drop-box recycling sites.

In a press release issued on Thursday afternoon, the mayor said there will be no changes to the current level of service “until further analysis can be done.”

This comes after an interview with Maui Now last week in which he confirmed his proposed plan to close the county recycling centers and allow contracts to lapse.

At the time, he noted that the county currently pays three-quarters of a million dollars to have companies do recycling, while competing against the private sector.  He suggested that taxpayer dollars could be spent elsewhere.

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

Two days later in the March 27 edition of the Maui News, the publication reported confirmation of the Mayor’s plans to “eliminate around $700,000 in funding from the 2013-14 budget for recycling drop boxes at half of the county’s eight funded recycling centers on Maui.”

In yesterday’s press release, the Mayor stated otherwise, saying, “It’s important to note that the budget proposal that was sent to the council contains the same amount of funds for recycling as we had in there this year, not a penny less.”

“The residential drop box program will continue, although at some point the locations of the bins may change,” Arakawa continued. “We’ve heard from the public that they are passionate about recycling, and while I am an avid recycler myself, the public needs to understand exactly how much it costs to haul, process and transport the materials off-island.”

The mayor also provided some detail of the costs associated with the county recycling facilities.

“According to Environmental Management Director Kyle Ginoza, it costs the county 15 times as much to recycle items as it does to landfill them, which comes as a shock to many. Currently, it costs us more than $300 a ton per recyclable to move the material from the drop box bins to a processor and process the materials; it costs the processor even more to then ship it to a recycler in Asia or on the mainland.”

The mayor said he is looking for a move away from county-subsidized residential drop box operations toward reliance on private vendors for recycling.

“There will be no disruption to the public’s ability to recycle household items, as we work on transitioning the County out of the recycling business so that the private sector can step in,” Arakawa said.

The mayor attributed part of the confusion to flyers he said were circulated at a residential recycling drop-off centers recently by employees of a private vendor that the county pays to haul residential recyclables for processing.

Flyer that had been circulated in community regarding recycling plans.  Courtesy image.

Flyer that had been circulated in community regarding recycling plans.  The Mayor issued a statement stating that flyers being posted at county facilities contained “misinformation.” It is unclear if this particular flyer is the one being referenced.  Courtesy image.

“These flyers have provided only partial information, and ensuing rumors have spawned a great deal of misinformation,” Arakawa said.  A copy of one flyer in circulation has been included for reference.

“While we plan to work with vendors to privatize this service, it will take some time for a transition to take place. In the meantime, we will make sure the public can still recycle at the drop boxes as they always have,” he said.

Sherri Pell, manager of Aloha Recycling located on Amala Place in Kahului, said it appears as though the mayor changed his mind following public opposition.

“The flyer did its purpose because it got the community to respond,” Pell said in a phone interview this morning.

Although she said she was happy at the outcome, Pell said she was “quite annoyed though that he’s putting the blame on us.”

She claims the biggest problem is the cost of the processing contract, saying the bid was too high. Pell said Aloha Recycling gets an estimated $65,000 a year for the hauling contract, and pays the county $15,000 a month to accommodate HI-5 recycling.

The mayor said recycling will continue to be “an important component in the county’s overall sustainability strategy” as it moves closer to being able to turn trash into energy.

“We will do our best to serve the needs and wishes of the community in a fiscally responsible manner,” he said.

During the proposed transition, Arakawa asked the public for help in keeping costs down by cutting down on the amount of material that needs to be recycled, reducing consumption, and reusing items whenever possible.

“These are cheap and efficient ways to extend the life of our landfills. We live in a disposable society, and it’s time we all take a harsh look inside the bin to see how much it really costs taxpayers to deal with the things they don’t want anymore.”

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  • JasM

    ” “This is fact. We are closing down the county recycling centers,” Mayor Arakawa said in an exclusive interview with Maui Now.” – Is what I read from the previous article on the subject. To me it sounded like the mayor’s stance was a definite, done deal, non-negotiating one. Now it seems that he is backpedalling and “clarifying” what he said earlier. Heh, heh, keep kicking the toad on the road and he’ll eventually either move or get squished. This is fact!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000289423888 Chris Profio

      JasM, I agree with your assessment of the situation, including that some backpedaling is going on and the finger of blame is being pointed elsewhere. “Clear and consistent throughout” should also apply to communications with the public. Perhaps some lessons will be learned here.

    • unaccounted misusing taxes

      What I come up with what the mayor is saying is: I want to take that millions of tax dollar’s and use it on another experimental idea. Since we are generating already. Just like all the other taxes money we used before. And the people won’t miss it cause give them time they’ll forget all about it…..

      • JasM

        Oh, do you mean the “trash to energy program”? Good luck to that one. One can only wonder at what costs to purchase and set up such a system, run and maintain it, and possible negative effects to the community and environment that it poses. Also, what savings on electrical through means of PV? In the long run, someone’s paying for it as no way MECO will lose money. Those with PV, eventually make up for cost of system installation but initial big cost hit. Those with PPA deal, good. Those without PV, up the creek, as will be paying to maintain MECO’s costs and profit. In other words, paying for what others are saving in dollars. Unless I’m missing something, this is fact!

        • think smart

          No you’re absolutely correct on that sense of your thoughts. That is why I have twenty four panels on my roof.

          • JasM

            Good for you! You’re one of the fortunate ones. Even if I could afford to install PV, the limit as to how many homes allowed by MECO in the neighborhood to have it has been reached, so I and others without it are s@!* out of luck. And so, even by practicing means to reduce consumption of electricity (yeah, it’s pretty dim in the house at night), my bill and rates are at its highest ever. What’s wrong with this picture??? How are those gigantic wind turbines helping me?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000289423888 Chris Profio

            Those gigantic – and photogenic – wind turbines aren’t helping either of us. I have a small PV system on my roof, but it isn’t large enough to cover all of my power costs. I think MECO’s primary goal is to take care of MECO – to keep their profits up as much for as long as possible while at the same time paying lip service to the idea of conservation and “serving” the public, e.g., by raising their rates when their profits dipped a little due [they said] to all of the little PV systems popping up on roofs all over the island…and so it goes…

          • think smart

            You can go back to the people you got your system from and request for more panels So you would meet your kilo watts needs.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000289423888 Chris Profio

            Yeah, if I had the money, but not if MECO’s closed the grid to additional PV due to “interconnectivity issues.”

          • think smart

            You can still get pv. You don’t have to buy it out right. And get locked in on a low rate for twenty years. No money out of your pocket. Call haleakala solar and find out. The different ways to get pv on your roof with out money out of your pocket.

          • JasM

            Thanks. Is that a purchase power agreement?

          • think smart

            Yes it is.

  • growing a long nose

    the county pays for it? that’s what is wrong with these politician, taxpayors pay for it and everything else accept for the back end deals a politician can cut for themselves………the article reads” mayor wants to be re elected so wil flip flop like a mahi mahi on the deck of a fishing boat or in other words lie through his teeth………….taxpayors should decide they pay for it all not ‘the county’

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000289423888 Chris Profio

    Good job covering this story, MauiNow…I shoulda said this before…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000289423888 Chris Profio

    I was concerned early on that the mayor’s announced effort to close the county-run facilities was a prelude to eventually forcing curbside recycling on us at our expense. Curbside recycling is a great idea in theory but very expensive to actually put in place – when I had it in California my trash and recyclables pick-up service was handled by a private company that charged me $54+ each month, and I cannot afford that kind of expense here.

    I hope the mayor understands now that it he makes an announcement that will make recycling more difficult for the citizens to do, then there will be some pushback on it. His subsequent backpedaling and blaming others for spreading rumors does not impress me.

  • ttomni6

    Since the comments on this story have veered into a discussion of PV panels on homes, I’d like to bring up the idea of solar rights and solar access legislation. Many other states and counties are already instituting these measures.

    Solar rights gives homeowners the ability to get PV.

    Solar access ensures that once installed, the sun cannot be blocked to those panels by vegetation, construction, etc.

    I wrote to the governor’s office concerning these measures and all I received back was an email saying that Hawaii does not have these measures.

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