Going greener

Avid recycler Hana Neerings doesn’t mind going out of her way to make sure her reusable household materials don’t end up in the Kekaha landfill. But she’s not so sure others feel the same.

“I think most people throw a lot of this stuff in the garbage,” the Lihue woman said Monday during her regular visit to the Kauai County recycle drop-off bin near Kmart.

Neerings estimates she recycles about 75 percent of her household waste and believes the county would experience a much higher recycle rate if curbside service was available.

“You’d see a huge increase,” she said, “and that’s good for everybody.”

Kauai County officials share those hopes about recycling and would like to hear from residents during a public meeting Wednesday on construction of an estimated $10.9 million Materials Recycling Facility near the county’s resource center by the Lihue Airport.

The meeting will be from 5:30 to 6:30 at the Lihue Civic Center.

Kauai council member Gary Hooser said he backs continued efforts to promote recycling through public awareness and increased convenience.

“I am pleased that the county is moving forward with these plans,” Hooser said. “Solid waste management is a huge responsibility and the solution clearly involves multiple components and recycling is an essential element of the long-term plan.”

At full capacity, the MRF would process about 25,000 tons of material a year and provide the infrastructure necessary to implement a curbside recycling program, said county spokesman Mary Daubert.

The facility would not accept organic waste (which accounts for about 14 percent of the refuse dumped at the landfill) but would process metal, glass, plastics and paper.

If built, the MRF would extend the life of the landfill — now projected to close in about 10 years in 2026 at a cost or about $15 million, Daubert said.

Every day, thousands of pounds of recyclable materials are dumped at the Kekaha landfill. Mountains of otherwise reusable materials buried forever.

“Current recycling efforts are limited to the residential recycle drop-off program and private sector business recycling efforts,” Daubert said.

It’s estimated that about 10,000 tons of recyclables are diverted to the dump each year.

But recycling is rising on Kauai. The recycling rate in Kauai in 2008 was about 28 percent. That number rose to 40 percent in 2013 and is currently around 44 percent.

The county’s goal is to reach a recycling rate of 70 percent by 2023.

And while consumers can redeem a 5-cent deposit for each HI-5 container returned to private recycle firms, that incentive is not expected to make much of a difference.

“Beverage containers represent only a small portion of the material that would be accepted in a curbside recycling program,” according to Kauai County Acting County Engineer Lyle Tabata.

“Whether or not people put these containers in their bins is not expected to have a huge impact on determining whether or not the program is a success since the primary items targeted by the proposed program are currently ending up in the landfill,” he said.

Engineering for the 20,000-square-foot MRF is expected during fiscal year 2017 with construction anticipated the following year and operation to begin in 2019.

Meanwhile, Kauai residents like Neerings and Sherman Aquino say they are doing their part to recycle.

“I wish more people would do it,” Aquino said as he tossed an armful of boxes into the drop-off bin. “It’s the right thing to do.”

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Keith Erickson, managing editor and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0427 or kerickson@thegardenisland.com.

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