Don't curb recycling program


POSTED: Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Plans to complete curbside recycling in neighborhoods from one end of Oahu to the other by this time next year would be delayed, if not abandoned, by budget priorities endorsed by a City Council committee. The full Council should affirm the intended recycling timetable and find other ways to balance the city's budget.

Following successful trial runs in Mililani and Hawaii Kai, the city administration launched a two-year project last May designed to add participating neighborhoods to the service every six months, making curbside recycling islandwide in May 2010.

The Council's Budget Committee now has agreed to go ahead with the November expansion but has put the final segment planned in May 2010, from Waipahu and Waikele up the Leeward Coast, on the back burner, so that the $6 million needed for completion can be spent elsewhere.

City officials have correctly described curbside recycling as a bargain. The city pays $50 a ton to dispose of garbage at the HPOWER garbage-to-energy plant. It pays $45 a ton to RRR Recycling Services to process mixed recyclables collected at curbside, but that can be reduced to a net cost of as little as $15 a ton by crediting of beverage containers that had not been redeemed.

Waimanalo Landfill, the island's only landfill, is scheduled to be shut down in November, and the budget proposal provides for $22 million in improvements. Tim Steinberger, director of the city's environmental services, said delaying completion of the curb-recycling project would result in continuing dependence on the landfill “;because we are not going to be diverting flow through recycling.”;

While three-fourths of what Americans throw in the trash can be recycled, only 25 percent is put on that path. Despite the recession, cities across the country are expanding curbside recycling. Even the new mayor of beleaguered Detroit announced last month a $4.8 million pilot program to expand curbside recycling to several neighborhoods.

Councilman Rod Tam said the city should “;encourage people to recycle on their own, rather than the government to do the service for them and babying them.”; He says the city cannot “;cater to them at this time”; because of budget constraints. Tam fails to understand that taxpayers and the environment will benefit from islandwide recycling. “;It's something that the environment begs for,”; explained Councilman Duke Bainum.

The Budget Committee approved increases in bus fares, motor vehicle taxes, fees for homes with security alarms, fees at municipal golf courses, gasoline taxes and admission fees to Honolulu Zoo.

Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia said next year's shelving of curb recycling would enable the city to give tax credits to homeowners who will face property tax increases—but other options should be sought.