Symbiotic relationship’ ends, at least for now

It has not even been two days since Island Recycling Incorporated (IRI) workers have vacated the Kauai Resource Center near Lihu’e Airport, and Kathy Cowan misses them already.

County officials evicted those at IRI for alleged violations of the terms of the recycling contract, effective yesterday.

As executive director of Kauai Recycling for the Arts, Cowan enjoyed a “symbiotic relationship” with those at IRI and, although IRI folks are gone, she remains.

“The island’s losing a good business. It’s kinda sad,” she said. “I hate to see them go.”

She hates to see them go for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that, because people could redeem their beverage containers for cash and turn in their white paper, other plastics and other recyclables, IRI officials generated a lot of walk-in traffic, she said.

Many of those people, interested in recycling, were interested in what she was doing at Kauai Recycling for the Arts, she said.

“We won’t have recyclers wandering through our shop,” recyclers who are generally very interested in what Cowan and others at Kauai Recycling for the Arts are doing, Cowan said.

“We won’t have those people coming as often,” said Cowan, who today is teaching classes at the Boys & Girls Club.

“A lot of (Kauai Recycling for the Arts) educational programs include the recycling component,” a component that with IRI workers at the Kauai Resource Center was a live-action opportunity a short walk from the Kauai Recycling for the Arts studio, Cowan said.

And now that’s gone, she said.

“It shows how we close the loop, and we don’t have the first part of the loop,” she said of the cycle that is the purchase and redemption of glass bottles that are turned into works of art by those at Kauai Recycling for the Arts.

“I’m sad about that. I hope it won’t take long to get a new contractor.”

It will probably take the better part of the rest of this year, based on the fact that county officials have said it will take two to three months to put the contract out to bid, and Jim Nutter, president of IRI, said a site-specific, solid-waste permit, required by state law, is necessary to operate, and takes at least six months to acquire.

Cowan has just received an $8,000 grant from Hawaii Tourism Authority officials to increase recycling-education efforts, something that is going to be much more difficult with-out an on-premises recycling center, she said.

“We’ll just have to reach out even more.”

Kauai Recycling for the Arts leaders are licensed by state Department of Health officials to collect glass, something they’ve stopped doing for the time being, as they’ve just shut down their furnace in order to do maintenance on it, she explained.

“We’ll put out a call for glass when we’re ready,” said Cowan, adding that she gets glass donated from operators of window-glass companies and contractors, and from operators of restaurants, who donate wine and other beverage bottles.

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