Mayor Alan Arakawa announced last week that due to the amount of confusion and concern that has been expressed regarding the status of county-funded residential drop-box recycling sites, there will be no changes to the current level of service until further analysis can be done.
"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," Mayor Arakawa said. "The residential drop-box program will continue, although at some point the locations of the bins may change. 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.
"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 mayor continued, saying that "recycling will continue to be an important component in the county's overall sustainability strategy as we move closer to being able to turn our trash into energy. We will do our best to serve the needs and wishes of the community in a fiscally responsible manner."
The county began offering recycling as a new service in 1993; the state implemented the HI-5 redemption program in 2005 by contracting with private vendors, some of whom pay concession fees to operate their private HI-5 redemption centers on county land. The Mayor's proposal seeks to transition the county-subsidized residential drop box operations to private vendors.
Flyers had been circulated at a residential recycling drop-off center recently by employees of a private vendor the county pays to haul residential recyclables for processing.
"These flyers have provided only partial information, and ensuing rumors have spawned a great deal of misinformation," the mayor noted. "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."
Mayor Arakawa also asked the public for its kokua in keeping costs down--by recycling conscientiously and cutting down on the amount of material that needs to be recycled in the first place.
"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," the mayor said. "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."
Mayor Arakawa called on the public to step up efforts to "pre-cycle" by reducing consumption and reusing items whenever possible.
"These are cheap and efficient ways to extend the life of our landfills," he said. "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."