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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 30, 2001

Metal recycler's deadline looms

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

KAPOLEI — With just two days to go before the only auto recycling company in Hawai'i stops accepting cars that still contain nonmetal parts, the city and Hawaii Metal Recycling Co. have yet to come to terms on a deal to keep the operation viable.

Mayor Jeremy Harris' office and Hawaii Metal Recycling have been negotiating a way to help the company cut its costs, specifically a "tipping" fee charged at the city landfill to dump the nonmetal auto parts.

"I can't tell you what the offers have been, but it has gone back and forth," said Georgette Deemer, who represents Hawaii Metal Recycling. "We are in negotiations and progress is being made. The sooner we know the better, so it doesn't have to come down to the wire."

Hawaii Metal Recycling takes in and shreds junked cars, selling the metal for profit, but it must pay to dispose of the nonmetal parts of the car — windows, seats, carpeting — at the city's landfill. Jim Banigan, general manager of the company, said those fees make up 37 percent of his operating costs — between $500,000 and $600,000 a year — and he wants the city to reduce or eliminate the dumping fees.

If the company stops accepting derelict vehicles on Saturday, as it said it would, there will be nowhere for the city or private companies to take the junked and abandoned vehicles for recycling. A few companies take junk cars for parts, but eventually they all end up in HMR's facility. Industry observers say such a policy at HMR would quickly result in abandoned cars piling up on O'ahu's back roads and empty lots.

City spokeswoman Carol Costa declined comment until a settlement is reached.

Banigan has said of the 25,000 cars the company recycled last year, about 30 percent came from the city and 70 percent came from private haulers.

Hawai'i Metal Recycling has turned about 360,000 old cars into scrap metal in the past 10 years.

Banigan said he provides a public service, recycling the cars and saving the city money because all those vehicles are not sent to a landfill.

He pays $17 to $20 a ton for old cars and appliances, then sells the metal by the shipload to countries in Asia for about $70 a ton, where the metal is melted down and reused in steel mills. A car with a motor weighs about one ton on average.

Banigan said he has prepared two fliers to distribute to his customers tomorrow. One says a settlement was reached and it is business as usual. The other details his new business limitations.

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com