County evicts recycler

Officials with the County of Kaua’i are evicting those with Island Recycling from the Kauai Resource Center in Lihu’e after nearly four years of operations there by the Honolulu-based company.

That means that, on Sunday, Jan. 15, there will no longer be a redemption center at the resource center, until county officials find a new contractor to take over recycling efforts at the location.

How long that will take is anyone’s guess. The contract to operate at the resource center will go back out to bid, a process that can take two to three months, county officials said.

President of Island Recycling, Jim Nutter, said whatever company operates there will also need a solid-waste permit, something that takes between six and eight months to acquire. Solid-waste permits are site-specific, and mandated by state law, he said.

In the meantime, a county spokesperson recommended people contact Garden Isle Disposal, or other Kaua’i businesses, for their recycling needs, until a new contractor is found for the resource center.

The reason the eviction occurred, some say, stems from competition for business between Island Recycling and Garden Isle Disposal, two of the main recycling competitors on Kaua’i.

The breach of contract, says Nutter, occurred during a two-to-three-week period in April, after company officials established some accounts for hauling trash on the island.

“We were shipping over a front-end-loader truck to do trash pickup, and while we waited for it we brought in, for several days, three or four, desk-sized containers for trash. We then used a different type of truck to take them (the containers) next door to the transfer station,” Nutter said.

That type of use is not allowed in Island Recycling’s contract with the county. President of Garden Isle Disposal, Scott Kouchi, made the county aware of what Island Recycling was doing.

“We just knew (Island Recycling) wasn’t using the resource center for what the contract said, and we brought that to the attention of the county,” Kouchi said. “They were doing trash service.”

Nutter insists the trash was at the resource center for a brief period of time, and once the front-end loader arrived all trash was brought directly to the landfill, bypassing the resource-center facility.

“The county obviously has found merit to what we were saying,” Kouchi said.

A county spokesperson explained with precision why they terminated the contract with Island Recycling: “During the period approximately between April 2005 and July 2005, IRI (Island Recycling Inc.) used County of Kaua’i property and facilities for a private business contract unrelated to the above-named contract with the COK (County of Kaua’i).

“IRI hauled at least one, three-cubic-yard dumpster per week of trash from its private customer, the Regency at Puakea, to the Kauai Recycling Center (KRC), which belongs to the COK. IRI then used COK property, the KRC forklift, to empty the bin(s) at the Lihue Refuse Transfer Station or into a roll-off bin,” according to the county spokesperson.

“The activity was conducted once or twice a week for a period of approximately three months. The COK confirmed that IRI used the COK forklift because IRI had no other means of dumping the 3-cubic-yard container until sometime in July of 2005 when IRI’s own front-end loader truck arrived on Kaua’i from Honolulu,” the county spokesperson continued.

“The COK informed IRI of its concerns by letter dated Oct. 25, 2005. IRI responded by letter dated Nov. 29, 2005. IRI stated that the dumping of trash from the Regency at Puakea on June 18, 2005, using the county fork-lift, was the only such incident,” according to the county spokes-person.

“Subsequent investigation by the COK, however, revealed that similar dumping activity was a regular occurrence during the period from April through July 2005.”

Nutter claims he never received warning that the eviction was coming, and doesn’t understand why the county is evicting his company for such a minor reason.

“They (the county) have given us permission to rebid for the contract,” Nutter said. “Why would they do that if we did anything wrong?”

Nutter says it is “laughable” to think he would bid again. Furthermore, he feels Garden Isle Disposal officials will now have a monopoly on Kaua’i, that their main competition, Island Recycling, has been effectively eliminated.

“I don’t know what his definition of ‘a monopoly’ is,” said Kouchi. “There is other competition.”

Kouchi names Reynolds Recycling and Kauai Community Recycling Services (KCRS) as two of them.

“The thing about Island Recycling is they brought recycling to a much higher standard on Kaua’i since that center opened,” said Claire Mortimer, a resident recycler from Kilauea and chair of the Green Party on Kaua’i.

“Before it was set up, there was no place to take plastic, mixed paper, plastic bags, or used computers.”

Mortimer is not the only one in the community not happy about the center’s closing.

“Now there is no one at the resource center to take our material,” said KCRS owner James Higginbotham.

Higginbotham operates the only business on the island that has curbside pickup. “Now that we have no place to process, we have to temporarily close down the curbside service,” Higginbotham said.

He says his company collects recyclables at some 500 homes, each with two to three people living in them. “I had to let my employees go. There were four of them,” Higginbotham said.

The Kauai Community Recycling Services redemption center will still open in Kekaha twice a week, though, Higginbotham said. And they will continue to do some limited curbside pickup. “We will still pick up the High 5 material. What we won’t pick up now is all the paper products: newspaper, cardboard, junk mail,” Higginbotham said.

Leaders of a company whose employees handle distribution of visitor publications on Kaua’i, Hawaii Folder Service, now face a tough decision with what to do with the estimated three tons to four tons of outdated visitor publications they recycle every month. “We will probably have to put them in the landfill,” said Steve Broderick, a driver for Hawaii Folder Service.

County Recycling Coordinator Allison Fraley wondered why they wouldn’t take the material to Garden Isle Disposal.

The Owner of Hawaii Folder Service, Wesley Strong, said he will call Garden Isle Disposal as he explores options now that the resource center is closing. “We have a lot of magazines, and I don’t know if they’ll be able to meet our needs,” Strong said.

Kouchi said he would need to discuss details with company officials before committing to processing large amounts of material. “We are on a small island, and we have limited space,” Kouchi said. “If the county asks us, we will help the businesses and the community with these needs.”

If a company can’t be found to take his material, Strong said, the only choice will be the landfill. Mortimer said there will be nowhere to take computer components after Jan. 15 other than the landfill.

Kouchi said it is too early to tell if his company will bid for the county contract to operate the Kauai Resource Center. The proposed contract is not out yet.

The eviction has taken many by surprise, as the county letters announcing it were issued on Dec. 29, right in the middle of many people’s holiday vacations.

“There is going to be a lot of people showing up after Jan. 15 at those gates,” said Mortimer. “When they’re (Island Recycling) gone and there is no motivation to maintain the level of services, who knows what is going to happen?”

Whether anything can be done between Jan. 15 and the time it takes to find a new contractor is yet to be seen. The gap in services during the interim period may be a step back in Kaua’i recycling, or it may bring new cooperation and ideas to the fore.

“I will assess my options, and do whatever I have to do to recycle everything I can,” Mortimer said. “We live on an island, and we can’t just fill our landfill.”

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