Curbside recycling

Chris Valin is an advocate of protecting the environment. Use less. Waste less. 

His background as a carpenter, builder and contractor taught him the value of creating energy-efficient homes. He knows firsthand of the need to be green.

“I’m a firm believer in reducing our environmental impact in general,” he said. “There are a lot of things I try to do.”

One of them is recycling. 

It’s a way to keep items out of the solid waste system and a way to use them over and over again. Items like aluminum and steel cans, glass and paper, he said, should not be tossed out with the trash.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to be piling into a landfill,” Valin said. “That is a major capital expense.”

And he noticed, after moving here two years ago, Kauai was lacking something in the recycling department: Curbside pickup.

But no longer.

Valin recently started “Kauai Curbside Recycling.” It’s a simple concept that he hopes catches on with island residents. He offers residential pickup of recyclables every two weeks, starting at $15 a month depending on location.

“We’re trying to make it as affordable as possible,” he said.

The Kapaa man already has a handful of residental clients and business customers. He is confident there is a demand for curbside recycling, which hasn’t been offered on Kauai for nearly a decade. 

It’s a business, yes, but it’s also his passion.

“I’ve always believed in reuse whenever possible,” he said.

Valin will pickup aluminum and steel cans, glass, cardboard, plastics No. 1 and No. 2, newspaper, mixed paper, cardboard, pretty much anything the county accepts. He offers clients a choice of sorting their own or he’ll do it for a little extra cost. 

“We’re trying to make it easier by reducing the amount of sorting,” he said.

He’ll also provide one 20-gallon bin for each month of service purchased, up to three bins.

“That’s quite a bit of recycling,” he said. 

Allison Fraley, solid waste program coordinator for the county of Kauai, said there is a need for curbside recycling.

“I think this is definitely a viable business,” she said Tuesday. “It’s really important for people who want to have that convenience.”

The county is considering curbside recycling, but first must have a materials recovery facility, which is in the conceptual design stage.

Meantime, Kauai’s recycling rate in 2014 was 42 percent, above the national rate of 35 percent. The county offers drop bins at eight sites throughout the island and has seen an increase in participation over the past 10 years. It’s recently adopted Pay-as-You-Throw program that charges residents based on how much they throw away has been successful at reducing waste and encouraging recycling, Fraley said.

The recycling rate of HI-5 containers that are part of the redemption program, such as aluminum cans and most glass and plastic bottles, is 70 percent statewide.  

The county, through its Zero Waste Resolution adopted in October 2011, hopes to reach a recycling rate of 70 percent by 2023.

“For a rural community that’s geographically isolated, we’re doing a really good job,” Fraley said.

Valin said he received support, encouragement and ideas from the county as he researched curbside recycling. He studied the concept for several months before deciding to begin the service. Right now, it’s a one-man show, Valin and his Toyota pickup, but he expects to add staff as his client base of residential and commercial accounts increases.

While recycling HI-5 items will bring in some revenue, Valin’s success hinges on people signing up for his service. He delivers his recyclables to Garden Isle Disposal.

He hopes relatively low subscription fees will remove most of the barriers that keep some people from recycling. He said there is a lot of nonredemption items such as plastics, wine bottles and cardboard that are going into the waste system. 

“We’re trying to remove those obstacles by coming to your house,” Valin said. “This is something people can do for not much money without a lot of difficulty.”

Info: 353-1852 or kcrpickup.com.

Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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