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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

City asks Mililani to test curbside recycling

 •  Chart: Mililani recycling pilot program

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

The city is asking about 11,000 Mililani area residents to recycle their household and yard waste as a prelude to an islandwide curbside recycling program next year.

Starting in November, automated trash trucks in the Mililani area also will pick up sorted recyclable materials.

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Residents of Mililani Mauka, Mililani and Waipio Acres who have their trash picked up by automated city trucks will be in a four-month pilot program scheduled to begin on Nov. 3, Mayor Jeremy Harris announced yesterday.

"We recognize that recycling our waste is the right thing to do environmentally, and it's also the right thing to do economically," Harris said.

The project has the support of Councilman Mike Gabbard, chairman of the Public Works Committee; the two council members who represent the area; the Mililani Town Association; and area neighborhood boards.

But it was not clear yesterday how enthusiastic residents are. Some in Mililani said it might be hard to convince people to participate.

The pilot program will be paid for with $270,000 set aside by the City Council to explore recycling options for O'ahu. The city will use its automated trucks and city crews, but a private contractor will handle the recyclables.

The program is similar to one Harris proposed this year that was rejected by the City Council as flawed. That plan also met with skepticism from some homeowners, who found it complicated.

The pilot program, in which trucks will pick up yard waste and mixed recyclables — aluminum, glass, plastic and paper — on alternating weeks, addresses some of those criticisms.

For example, green waste and recycling collection will be free of charge to residents who maintain their current twice-a-week curbside rubbish collection schedule.

The most controversial aspect of Harris' plan was that it reduced rubbish collection to once a week. Residents who wanted the second weekly pickup would have had to pay $8 a month.

Also, while the Harris plan would have charged residents $70 per recycling bin, the pilot program will give free green bins for recycling, although the gray, 96-gallon bins distributed by the city will continue to be used for other trash. Harris said residents probably will not be asked to return the bins once the pilot program has ended.

"We recognize that recycling our waste is the right thing to do environmentally, and it's also the right thing to do economically," Mayor Jeremy Harris said.

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The mayor said the program would change midway through the four-month test period, but he declined to give details.

The city will use telephone surveys and monitoring by trash haulers to gauge how many people participate in the program and how many need a second-day rubbish pickup, so the program can be fine-tuned for the entire island.

City spokeswoman Carol Costa said people who choose not to participate can continue to mix their trash and recyclables, although green waste must be separated.

However, if those who choose to participate do mix trash into their recyclables, it will not be picked up, and the resident will be left a note explaining why, Costa said. Residents participate by putting the recyclables and yard waste in their regular trash bins or the free green ones at curbside on pickup days.

Gabbard was pleased to see the pilot program in motion. "As you know, the clock is ticking out at our landfill at Waimanalo Gulch," he said. "Recycling is not a feel-good idea — it's an absolute essential."

Councilman Nestor Garcia, who represents half of the Mililani district, applauded the Harris administration for taking a step toward curbside recycling. "This kind of project is long overdue," he said.

With the pilot program limited to residents served by city trash crews, Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, who represents the other half of the Mililani district, expressed disappointment that townhomes with private haulers would be left out. "We need to figure out how we're going to have recycling done at all levels," he said.

He suggested recycling containers should be installed at parks along with trash cans. "Recycling is not just at the household," he said. "It's the culture."

However, Dela Cruz added, "I do congratulate the administration for coming up with something after nine years in office."

Some shoppers at the Mililani Town Center yesterday said they would be reluctant to participate. They said the city's current yard waste collection twice a month is adequate, and a recycling bin already is located at the shopping center. Also, the Mililani Town Association offers a recycling program by request.

Others did not want to go to the trouble to sort paper, plastics and glass. "It takes too much time," said resident Maria Ortega. "I'm too busy."

Ethan Lucas also was reluctant. "It takes too much work," he said.

But Linda Infante said she would like to have curbside recycling as long as it is free. "I don't want to pay for it," she said.

If she were given the option of paying for recycling, Infante said, she would do it on her own. She said she recycles her cans and plastics and reuses newspapers at home.

Reach Treena Shapiro at 525-8070 or tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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