City should not dump recycling plan
Mayor Hannemann has scrapped the city's plans for curbside recycling collections.
WHEN the City Council made the controversial decision to continue landfill operations at a Leeward site
last year, officials promised to reduce the amount of waste that would be trucked there. Curbside recycling was a pivotal part of the plan.
Though some members had been at odds with then-Mayor Harris over the cost of the initiative, the Council largely agreed that the program was good strategy on an island where land is at a premium.
In fact, a study presented to the Council last fall projected that if recycling was expanded, the amount of trash dumped at the landfill would hold steady even as a growing population generated more waste.
Mayor Hannemann's decision to drop curbside recycling -- temporarily or not -- throws a wrench into the works. The administrative difficulties the city has encountered aren't good enough reason for the mayor and the Council to abandon the curbside program. It isn't a "nice-to-have" venture; it is one essential to reducing the toll on Oahu's environment and the 15-year life span of Oahu's lone landfill.
Hannemann -- who inherited the program, but not the current bidding contract jam-up, from Harris -- said the city will mount other efforts, such as setting up beverage container redemption centers at parks and more paper recycling bins at schools.
Neither of these will match the volume of curbside collections. In addition, parks, where litter is already a problem, might not be the best sites for container redemptions. Bins at schools will still require people to make an effort to take recyclable material there.
Effort is at the heart of the recycling problem. Unfortunately, some people aren't inclined to redirect their trash responsibly, even if they know they should and even if it takes change from their pockets.
The $14.8 million left unclaimed from bottle deposits points to this. State figures show that only half of the containers from beverages sold between last October and August of this year have been redeemed, though numbers increase to a high of about 80 percent in July.
Part of this can be attributed to insufficient redemption stations and while the city's proposed sites could help, containers are just a small portion of the recyclable wastes Oahu generates.
Curbside collection makes recycling of all such materials easy and has succeeded in hundreds of cities across the country. A trial run in Mililani two years ago showed that it would work here.
Most of the program's components -- funding, bins and work force -- are in place. Recycling companies are eager to pay the city for the refuse. The remaining hurdle, a contract dispute among bidders, and notional legal action aren't insurmountable. Dumping the program now would be a mistake.