Snafus delay curbside
recycling again

A contract bid is challenged as
Council members put the brakes
on funding


Sunday, June 5, 2005

» Councilman Charles Djou supports the city's proposal to set up an islandwide curbside recycling program. Djou's position was not included in an article on Page A1 in yesterday's paper.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

Don't roll out that blue recycling bin yet.

Curbside collection for Honolulu is on hold -- again.

Protest of a recycling bid likely will delay for months the city awarding a contract to process recyclable items collected from Oahu homes.

Meanwhile, Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi attached a condition to the proposed fiscal 2006 city budget that says there will be no spending on curbside recycling until alternatives are tried.

Now that people are redeeming more beverage containers for the 5-cent deposit refund, Kobayashi said, she wants to be sure that curbside collection will have something to pick up -- and that it will not deprive schools of fund-raising income from campus recycling bins.

The wording of the condition was not available yesterday, but according to Kobayashi it basically says "no moneys can be used for curbside recycling until there is a plan for more recycling centers to benefit the community."

Kobayashi said she wants to see if there are ways to partner with the state's beverage container redemption program and nonprofit groups to recycle via drop-offs at schools, parks or senior centers, instead of curbside.

The state program refunds 5 cents per labeled beverage container. The city's proposed curbside recycling program would pick up glass, plastic, aluminum, newspaper and cardboard, with a contractor sorting and selling the items.

"It's still possible we may do curbside recycling, if there's no public response to more redemption centers," Kobayashi said yesterday.

Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz said yesterday that he does not think Kobayashi's condition will replace curbside recycling, but supplement it.

"It's not saying let's do curbside or fund-raisers," Dela Cruz said. "Let's do both."

The Council meets Monday to consider the city's roughly $1.4 billion proposed budget, which includes $4 million for the first year of curbside recycling for 140,000 single-family homes. The city had planned to phase in the service beginning with 10,000 homes in Mililani, where a pilot recycling project was conducted last year.

Starting the service has been delayed by a city dispute with the union representing city refuse collection workers, and by permitting difficulties of Island Recycling Inc., the former apparent low bidder to process recyclables.

The city never awarded a contract to Island Recycling, citing doubt that the company could be ready to do the job. A re-bid of the contract was opened May 20. On May 27, Island Recycling filed a protest, claiming the new apparent low bidder, Rolloffs Hawaii/BLT Enterprises, is not qualified to do the job.

Rolloffs Hawaii's bid, with its California partner BLT Enterprises, would pay the city $150,000 a year to process 30,000 tons of recyclables a year. Of the other two bids received, Island Recycling would charge the city $1 million a year, and Honolulu Recovery Systems Inc. would charge the city $2.5 million a year for the same work.

Department of Environmental Services Director Eric Takamura had expected to choose a contractor this week but now must wait until Island Recycling's protest is resolved.

Of the $4 million in the proposed budget earmarked for recycling, $3 million is the labor cost for city refuse collectors, and $1 million is the estimated cost of a processing contract, Takamura said.

The cost of 14 more city garbage trucks to run recycling routes was not separated from the city's regular purchase of replacement garbage trucks, Takamura said.

Recycling bins already have been purchased, with many distributed to homes.

Council members Kobayashi and Rod Tam said yesterday that they are not sure curbside recycling is the best way to go. Council members Dela Cruz, Barbara Marshall, Gary Okino and Todd Apo said they strongly support curbside recycling.

Recycling beverage containers for school fund raising will not come near the projected 30,000 tons a year of recyclables that can be diverted from the landfill by a curbside program, Okino said.

"Everyone agrees recycling is a good thing," Apo said. "I think we're either at the point, or very close to the point, where all those variables (such as union contracts or the state Bottle Bill) have laid themselves out on the table."

Mayor Mufi Hannemann "has been gearing up" for curbside recycling since he took office, his spokesman Bill Brennan said. "He's waiting for the budget to kick in."


Recycling rate for month
again surpasses half of
all containers

Recycling of beverage containers in May passed the 50 percent mark for the second time since Hawaii's bottle bill took effect in January, the state Department of Health said yesterday.

More than 35 million containers were recycled last month, including 28.7 million bottles and cans with the "HI-5" label and 6.6 million unlabeled (older) containers turned in at redemption centers. Based on the estimated 67 million containers a month that are sold in the state, that means almost 53 percent of containers were recycled, the department said.

"We are pleased that these latest figures show increasing redemption rates," said Larry Lau, the department's deputy director for environmental health. "While many challenges still lie ahead, the Department of Health will continue to work with recyclers, retailers and the public to improve the program."

In March a total of 31.8 million labeled containers and 14.3 million unlabeled containers were recycled, for a rate of 69 percent.

The overall recycling rate has averaged 40 percent during the first five months of the program. The state's goal is to reach an 80 percent recycling rate.

As the program continues, officials expect fewer old and unlabeled containers.

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