DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Alipate Taualupe was among those sorting his recyclable bottles and cans yesterday at the busy redemption center at Waialae and 21st avenues.
Curbside recycling gets canned
Lengthy legal challenges to the bidding process prompt a change in the city's strategy
What: Discover Recycling Fair
Where: Blaisdell Arena
When: Nov. 4, 5 and 6
Why: To educate the public on recycling
Information: City Recycling Office, 692-5410
After Debbie Lee's family finishes washing their car, they hang the wet cloths on their blue recycling bin, one of thousands delivered by the city for curbside recycling.
"It dries rags. Other than that, I really don't know what to do with it," the Mililani resident said of the 64-gallon drum taking up space near her garage.
Nearly 50,000 other bins that were distributed in Central Oahu, the North Shore and Windward Oahu may get no more use than the Lees' bin after Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced yesterday the city was scrapping curb recycling.
The pilot project has cost the city about $3 million.
Hannemann said legal challenges to the bidding process will take too long to resolve. Instead, the city will now help the state strengthen its HI-5 beverage container redemption program and give more assistance to school recycling programs.
The city plans to make room on its properties, including parks, to set up more beverage container redemption centers.
The city also will assist 40 schools so they receive large recycling bins. Currently, 77 schools have the white bins, which accept newspapers, cardboard, glass and other recyclable materials.
"Is this the end for curbside recycling? Absolutely not," said Hannemann, who's looking at using the blue bins for an expanded green waste pickup service as well as possibly picking up newspapers at the curb.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Above, Jon Watanabe weighed Sus Miyashiro's recyclable cans. Weight-based coupons are issued that can be redeemed at the Times Super Market next door.
Mayor Jeremy Harris tried to implement curbside recycling in 2003, but the City Council killed the idea because of a garbage collection fee attached to the program.
Later that year, Harris started a pilot project in Mililani. After declaring the project a success, he tried to implement the program islandwide last year, but a union grievance by the United Public Workers halted the administration's plans.
Calvin Maeda, general manager of the Mililani Town Association, which assisted the Harris administration in implementing the Mililani pilot project, said he was disappointed about the fate of curbside recycling.
"It seems like it was working well in Mililani. There were some problems, but I think they could've been ironed out," he said.
Hannemann said that after he took office in January, he tried to resolve the union grievance to keep curbside recycling alive.
"We have gone to great lengths to figure whether we can make the program that we inherited from the last administration work," Hannemann said. "I'm here today to say that we can't make it work."
In May, Rolloffs Hawaii and California partner BLT Enterprises were the low bidder for a contract to process 30,000 tons of recyclable materials a year.
A week later, Island Recycling filed a protest, claiming that the low bidder wasn't qualified to do the job.
Environmental Services Director Eric Takamura, whose department oversees recycling programs, said they're now in the process of responding to the challenge.
They are looking at whether all three bidders have all the necessary permits, one of which is a state pollution control permit.
Hannemann said the bid protest could take months to resolve because of possible appeals. And the dispute could end up in court.
"I'm well aware of the fact that the city has this ongoing responsibility of the bins that were purchased and have been put out in homes, and I'm sorry about the inconvenience that it's been causing our residents," Hannemann said.
"I invite anyone to come and sit in my seat and see whether, in fact, they can make it work. If they can, ooh, they're a miracle worker," he said, deflecting potential criticism that he is stopping yet another program started by Harris.
Key City Council leaders, who have also called for the city to get involved in more community recycling, supported the mayor's action.
"The main goal is to recycle, and no matter how we do it as long as we do it that's our main focus," said Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi.
"I kind of figured that this is the best thing to do," said Councilman Rod Tam, chairman of the Public Works Committee, which oversees solid waste issues. "We would like to provide the service, but we simply can't afford it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.