Mayor Proposes Closure of County Recycling Centers

March 25, 2013, 12:04 PM HST · Updated March 26, 2:15 PM
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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 today confirmed his plans to trim the recycling budget for the fiscal year of 2014, and close county-run recycling facilities.

“This is fact.  We are closing down the county recycling centers,” Mayor Arakawa said in an exclusive interview with Maui Now.

“Originally, when these recycling centers were put up, there were no other recycling centers and the county was the only game in town.  Since then, in Kahului alone, there are at least four other recycling centers that I know of, that are handling the same recycling that the county is doing,” said Mayor Arakawa.

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The mayor said the county currently pays three-quarters of a million dollars to have companies do recycling, while competing against the private sector.

“As a taxypayer, would you rather have the private companies handle the recycling, or do you think the county should be paying your money to have recycling competing against all of these other recyclers, and essentially not be able to do other things,” said Mayor Arakawa.

The mayor continued saying, “When we analyzed where we are going to economize, and we see that Aloha Shell in Kahului, Reynolds Recycling which has a facility almost a block wide handing recycling–why are we competing against these companies and paying taxpayer dollars when the private sector is doing it and making a profit off of it?”

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

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“It only makes sense for us to save your taxpayer dollars and be able to allow the private sector to go ahead and do the recycling.”

The county currently hires companies for contracts to run the county recycling centers, with contracts set to expire at the end of June. At that time, the mayor said he planned to allow the contracts to lapse, and refrain from issuing new contracts.

“There should be very little break in service because there are available recycling centers in almost all of the communities except for one that I know of–which is Hana,” said Mayor Arakawa.

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

The mayor also noted the duplication of service in Kihei where a private company operates a facility just below the county recycling center; and an organic matter and green waste facility is located above the center near the wastewater treatment plant.

“It’s time for government to just get out of the way and allow the private sector to handle the recycling,” said Mayor Arakawa.

Since many of the recycling centers are at county park facilities, the mayor said they would likely be converted back to park space.  The facility at UHMC will likely go back to the college, said Arakawa.

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

“There’s no reason for the county to continue the program, which we started when there were no other recyclers, and continue to compete when there are plenty of other recyclers that are doing exactly the same job.”

The mayor defended the county’s efforts in the area of the environment saying, “Even with our trash-to-energy program, we now have a recycling component to it as well as creating energy, so that we’re not putting hundreds of tons of trash and garbage into our soils.  That is all going to be converted into a useable product, which is going to be the creation of energy.”

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

“When you’re taking hundreds of tons of trash and you’re recycling it into energy or other usable products, how can anybody question whether or not we’re doing the job,” said Mayor Arakawa.

Sherri Pell, Manager of Aloha Recycling, located at 75 Amala Place in Kahului wrote an opposition letter pointing out reasons why the county facilities should remain open.

According to Pell, the county sites represent the largest portion of Maui’s recycling, with more than 2123 tons of non HI-5 recyclables processed at county sites (excluding Olowalu) in 2012. Another 1,432 tons of HI-5 recycling went through these sites during the same calendar year, according to Pell.

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

County Recycling facility at UHMC, photo by Wendy Osher.

“To say that private business could do this does not include all the facts,” said Pell in the letter, which also noted a lack of private facilities Upcountry.

“To eliminate centers completely in Haiku and Makawao would be to deny recycling to tens of thousands of Maui residents. In Kihei, the existing private companies would not be able to handle the flow of materials,” said Pell.

“We feel that the county recycling sites should stay operating as is until the start-up of waste-to-energy, or the end of the five year contract, whichever is first. This would enable Maui residences to continue their recycling and divert hundreds of tons from our landfill,” said Pell.

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