Don’t trash curbside recycling

Say goodbye to the pilot curbside recycling program and say hello to automated trash collection.

The county made a couple questionable moves in the solid waste arena over the course of a few days.

In a July 29 news release, county officials announced that curbside recycling for 1,300 homes in Lihu‘e and Puhi is coming to an end this month.

More than 37,000 pounds of recyclable goods were diverted from the landfill each month on average since the program started in September 2010. Last we checked, our island’s sole landfill was rapidly reaching capacity in Kekaha and plans to build a new one in Hanama‘ulu have been slow to realize.

The curbside recycling program’s success can in large part be attributed to making recycling easier and more convenient for residents. Instead of having to sort their glass, paper, plastic and aluminum and then lug the stuff down to the nearest recycling facility for disposal, residents were able to simply throw all their recyclables into one big bin and set it out by the street for the county to collect.

This program not only encouraged more recycling among those who have been doing it for years, but it also prompted others to start recycling for the first time.

We wish the county news release would have announced an indefinite extension of the program instead of its termination.

We understand that the private company hired to process all the collected recyclables has drastically raised its rates to make the work viable. We also recognize that the county’s solution to this is to build its own Materials Recovery Facility, a project it has been dragging its feet on for years.

On the one hand, we applaud the county for calling a time-out since the cost to taxpayers was projected to increase. On the other hand, we strongly encourage the county to diligently work toward a swift alternative to ensure we continue to divert trash from our landfill.

While the private company’s price hike is incredibly unfortunate for the island as a whole, we suspect the better and cheaper course of action in the long run would still be for the county to proceed with the curbside program uninterrupted.

As part of the pilot program coming to a close, the county has senselessly decided to collect all the recycling bins it gave residents to use. Why not just let these community members hold onto them until the program resumes? Why waste all that time and money to go retrieve the cans and place them in storage, knowing they’ll eventually just have to be redistributed?

To top it all off, county workers are in the process of delivering 96-gallon trash cans to 6,500 Eastside homes so our fancy new trucks can swing by and pick them up off the street without anyone having to get out and actually lift the bins and throw the rubbish in the back. (And no, the county has no plans to capitalize on the savings of this new technology which allows one person to do the job of three; the extra two employees are to be reallocated elsewhere.) As much as we love shiny new toys — and the new monthly fees to pay for the service — this is the opposite of what Kaua‘i as a whole needs right now.

We shouldn’t be making it more convenient for residents to throw away more rubbish. We should be strictly focusing on keeping trash out of the landfill.

That’s why the county really needs to get serious about building a MRF. Maybe we can help. Let’s see. Maybe instead of building a new one from the ground up we could just use the old Lihu‘e sugar mill? It’s centrally located and can likely be retrofitted to serve this purpose. There, check off “siting” from the to-do list and move forward with design plans.

Let’s inject more common sense into the decision-making process. Our solid waste needs are great. Diverting as much opala as possible from the landfill not only gives it more life and buys more time for the county to build a new one, recycling helps protect our home, this island and the planet we all depend on.

We urge the county to not only reinstitute curbside recycling for Lihu‘e and Puhi, but for all of Kaua‘i. And please don’t waste taxpayer money picking up the recycling bins used in the pilot program.

We can’t afford further delay or unnecessary expenses in addressing our island’s dire solid waste needs.

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