Kokua Line
June Watanabe

Thieves hit
school recycling bins

Question: While planning to increase our household recycling, we realized we didn't know exactly how to sort our papers for depositing in the bins located on public school properties. We figure that if we aren't sure, likely there are other folks who would like to recycle but weren't sure how to either. Will you print specific instructions in your column or request your editors to list the locations and "how tos" for recycling in your paper?

Answer: Before we get to that information, consumers who opt to help various public and private schools via the community recycling bins might have noticed extra security recently.

It turns out that the new statewide beverage container redemption program has given thieves a new source of income, prompting the welding of steel bars across the deposit windows of the mixed container sections of the community recycling bins.

"We started experiencing thefts as soon as the deposit program took effect in January," said Suzanne Jones, the city's recycling coordinator. "Reports were coming in from the schools and there were significant drops in material in the mixed-container section."

Jones said recycling officials expected a decrease in containers being dropped off in the community bins because of the state's new container recycling law, which makes specific containers redeemable for five cents each.

"But combined with the theft reports from the schools, we realized that there was more contributing to the decline," she said.

There is anecdotal evidence that the bars are helping to thwart thieves, but no firm figures on recovery rates and revenues to schools as yet to verify that, she said.

The steel bars should be on most, if not all, the community bins at this point.

Jones noted that the community bins provide a positive alternative to taking containers to a redemption center -- an experience that so far has proven to be time-consuming and frustrating for many people.

Schools receive proceeds from recyclable materials put into the recycling bins on their respective campuses and shopping malls. Since the program began 15 years ago, more than $725,000 have been given to participating schools.

"The additional revenue from the nickel deposit value will be shared among the schools program-wide, as soon as we can maintain the beverage containers in the bin and get an accurate count," Jones said.

What to Recycle

Meanwhile, the city does a good job of providing information about refuse disposal and recycling options on its Web site, www.opala.org.

Or call the city's Recycling Office at 692-5410 if you don't have ready access to the Internet.

But, basically:

» Put newspapers and corrugated cardboard in the paper section of the community recycling bins; put plastics and aluminum in the mixed-container section.

» Remove the glossy inserts in the newspaper and flatten the corrugated cardboard boxes.

» Other types of paper, such as magazines, envelopes, junk mail, and cereal, detergent and tissue boxes, are not accepted.

"Office-type paper" -- white or colored bond paper only -- can be deposited in the paper section, but, unless you're in a business, school or home office generating large quantities, it's usually not worth the effort to sort these papers, according to Jones.

The white and colored bond paper must be separately bagged or boxed so it doesn't mix with newspapers in the recycling bin.

» Telephone books are accepted only during months specified by the telephone company, usually September to November

» Rinse aluminum cans; rinse and remove lids from glass bottles/jars and plastic beverage bottles and deposit them "loose" (no plastic bags) in the mixed containers section.

Q: I took my cardboard and newspapers to the recycling container at Noelani School in Manoa on June 15. It was brimming, and many before me had left their recycling items beside the container in the school parking lot. My daughter telephoned the recycling number, written on the side of the container, to inform the company of the need for a pickup, but the line was always busy. (She tried three times). Are the recycling bins monitored outside of scheduled pickups?

A: They are usually monitored by host schools during the school year.

However, the problem with overflows increases during the summer, when schools are out and staff may not be available for daily monitoring, said Suzanne Jones, the city's recycling coordinator.

Pickups are on a set schedule, determined by the activity at each site, she explained. The host school monitors the activity and notifies the city if pickups need to be increased or if a bin requires an additional pickup at any given time, she said.

Jones said to call the city's Recycling Office at 692-5410 to report any problems with community recycling bins and it will direct the contractor to correct the problem "quickly."

Helping Schools

The city Recycling Office is working with recycling companies to develop other ways, in addition to the community recycling bins, to help schools collect beverage containers for fund-raising.

One is by having recycling companies partner with schools to hold collection events on designated weekends.

Jones said one recycling company already has started to provide collection bins for school campuses. The bins look similar to community recycling bins "because they are old bins left over from a previous contract, which are being refurbished by the recycling company for the collection of aluminum and plastic beverage containers," she said.

The new deposit recycling program has great potential for raising money for schools, while schools can provide additional, convenient locations for people to recycle, Jones said.

The city also is offering schools, nonprofit organizations and condominiums each the use of up to 20 green, 96-gallon, wheeled carts -- used in the pilot Mililani curbside recycling project -- for recycling and fund-raising. Those carts have since been replaced by 64-gallon blue carts for an islandwide recycling program.

Call 692-5410 or e-mail info@opala.org for more information.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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