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Recycling Soon - Let's Help It Happen (Anna Hoover)
City's "Family Day" (Marsha Joyner)
LWV Board Member Jackie Parnell Recognized as Top in Field
Call to Action: Curb Global Warming from National LWV
Welcome New Members

Recycling Soon - Let's Help It Happen

Recycling is a controversial issue in Honolulu - not IF but HOW. This is a very hope-filled time for old time Leaguers who have been advocating recycling since at least 1973 when I joined an exciting effort of the League of Women Voters of Honolulu. At that point we wanted the City to turn its dumps into landfills. In a slideshow we took to any group willing to listen, we also explained that recycling was better than burying our rubbish. At that time this type of League activity was happening across the nation as local Leagues worked with LWVUS to create our Solid Waste Management position which remains valid today: "Action to support recycling and resource recovery by private industry, with cooperation and support from government." (As summarized on the LWVUS webpage: lwv.org)

Today we see our city using modern, generally environmentally sound, waste disposal methods and recycling much of our waste into energy at the HPOWER plant. The controversy today is not if we should press forward to recycle more of the waste but how to collect it.

In his initial March budget, Mayor Harris proposed a recycling program. Under the original proposal, residents with automated service would get one pick-up of garbage, including cans, during the week. (The HPOWER facility separates metal products automatically.) Recyclable material, such as newspapers, glass and plastics, would be collected on the second day, alternating weekly with pickups of green wastes, such as grass and shrub cuttings. Bulky item collections would remain the same -once a month or when residents request them. Residents had the option of keeping the second weekly trash pickup for an $8 fee.

After much debate the Honolulu City Council did not pass this program during the final budget deliberations in June. However, the Council did allocate funds to study recycling. The proviso in the budget bill says, "$340,000 shall be expended from the recycling special fund account of the solid waste special fund for a pilot curbside recycling program if sufficient monies remain in the recycling special fund account. It is the Council's intention that monies from the Solid Waste Special fund be used to implement a countywide curbside recycling program on or before July 1, 2004." There is today between $500,000 and $1 million dollars in the recycling special fund account.

Mayor Harris quickly announced a pilot program. About 10,000 households in one area, not scattered throughout the island, will be involved. This pilot project will serve about 6.5 percent of the 150,000 homes originally targeted by the city's refuse division. Data collected from the pilot area will be used next year to propose a new curbside system.

Some of the unresolved issues include:

  • Residents need to alter their disposal habits
  • If people want a second garbage pick-up in a week, they may have to pay $8 a month for the service, which can be a concern for large families or those with multiple units on one lot.
  • Will separating recyclables and green wastes reduce garbage volume enough that folks won't need a second garbage pick-up day?
  • Concerns about how the city will enforce the mandates, short of peeking into garbage bins.
  • How to deal with trash from thousands of condominiums and apartments, typically collected by private companies, and from homes that don't have automated pick-up.
  • Two day vs. one-day pick-up. 50% of users do not fill up their can so less than 50% of homeowners would need to pay the extra $8 if volume is the problem. Does this answer the issue of waste rotting if left for a week?

Some years ago there was a pilot recycling project in Kailua. Various methods of separation and collection were tried. The most successful was where the homeowners were given bins.

Green waste is still a major issue to be resolved and may have been the deal breaker for the original proposal. Collection of green waste is still on the uku pau system where a crew that finishes their route early can go out for another route and receive overtime. If green waste becomes part of the regular pickup in the bins then these crews would lose their current method of making extra money.

Also proposed was reducing the limit on the quantity of green waste collectable from about 25 bags to one bin. This means some homeowners would often have a yard waste disposal problem. This raises a concern that there may be an increase of illegal dumping as folks find green waste piling up after major yard work.

While the details are causing decision-makers a problem it is time for us all to individually let our elected officials know that we support recycling. Let's get the details worked out. It's time to recycle. (Sources: LWV webpage, Honolulu Advertiser, May 24, 2003, Honolulu Star Bulletin, March 5, 2003, City Council staff member interview, July 14, 2003)

Anna Hoover

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